The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Featured image for The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Ian McEwan is getting a fair amount of stick for being on the Booker longlist with a 160ish page novel; this book, probably because its author isn’t so well known, is getting away with only about 20 pages more. And if anything, this felt like a slighter book with less substance than On Chesil Beach did to me.

Not that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s a first person narrative, talking directly at you as if you are the other person sitting at an outside cafe table in Lahore with the narrator. I like first person stories when you can really get inside the head of the person telling the tale and this device made the book extremely readable to me. It didn’t take much longer than the dinner would have taken to read the book.

The narrator is a Princeton graduate from Pakistan telling about his experiences in America before and after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Having heard this much before reading I was expecting to find the book a bit tedious and probably a bit much.

Maybe I’m reading the wrong books but too many books lately seem to have characters telling me what they think of America/Iraq/terrorism/Taliban etc; it’s got to seeming like a compulsory segment of the 21st century novel. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a whole book along these lines.

I wasn’t expecting to find this book composed in large part of a (good and tragic) love story. I did enjoy the book from cover to cover and found Changez, the narrator, very engaging.

All in all though, once I’d finished the book, I didn’t really feel like I’d been anywhere or seen anything very out of the ordinary.