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Burnt Shadows [Kindle Edition]

Kamila Shamsie
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

In a prison cell in the US, a man stands trembling, naked, fearfully waiting to be shipped to Guantánamo Bay. How did it come to this? he wonders...

August 9th, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka steps out onto her veranda, taking in the view of the terraced slopes leading up to the sky. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, she is twenty-one, in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss.

In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes with the sound of fire and the horror of realisation. In the numbing aftermath of a bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost.

In search of new beginnings, she travels to Delhi two years later. There she walks into the lives of Konrad's half-sister, Elizabeth, her husband James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and old wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts. But the shadows of history - personal, political - are cast over the entwined worlds of the Burtons, Ashrafs and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York, and in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound them together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.

Sweeping in its scope and mesmerising in its evocation of time and place, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of disasters evaded and confronted, loyalties offered and repaid, and loves rewarded and betrayed.

Product Description


'An absorbing novel that commands, in the reader, a powerful emotional and intellectual response Kamila Shamsie is a writer of immense strength' - Salman Rushdie 'A brilliant book she is so extraordinary a writer' - Nadeem Aslam 'I feel that I have travelled the world and spent the past six decades with Hiroko and her family. Burnt Shadows is a beautiful, beautiful book' - Tahmima Anam 'Audacious in its ambition, epic in its scope. One can only admire the huge advances she has made, and helped us to make, in understanding the new global tensions' - Anita Desai


'Burnt Shadows is audacious in its ambition, epic in its scope. A startling expansion of the author's intentions, imagination and craftsmanship. One can only admire the huge advances she has made, and helped us to make, in understanding the new global tensions.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1604 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (6 April 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002R88G5Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #15,856 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Pakistan. She is the author of four previous novels: In the City by the Sea, Kartography (both shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), Salt and Saffron and Broken Verses. In 1999 she received the Prime Minister's Award for Literature and in 2004 the Patras Bokhari Award - both awarded by the Pakistan Academy of Letters. Her latest novel, Burnt Shadows, was shortlisted for the 2009 Orange Prize. Kamila Shamsie lives in London.

(Photo credit: Mark Pringle)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars overambitious but worthwhile 18 Jan. 2010
'Burnt Shadows' is set in three periods, 1947, 1983, 2001 and in several countries - Japan, Pakistan, Afghaistan and New York in particular, and traces the interconnections between the members of two families against the backdrop of major world events. This an involving and worthwhile read, and the ambition is laudable, but it falls down between too many stools. There seemed to be just too many characters, with little or no attempt to get under the skin of several of them. None of the Burtons convinced: both of the males were ciphers if not cliches, and nothing was made of Ilse's German origins,though the interaction of different nationalities and cultures is a major theme of the book. (I noticed that there were no German nor Japanese names amongst the individuals the author consulted). No particular insights seemed to be given into the major historical events that were encountered. The style seemed rather undistinguished, aspiring to 'fine writing' and imagery at times but often giving us clunky, unrhythmic, and poorly punctuated sentences. The evocation of different countries or cities was patchy, unsurprisingly better at Pakistan than elsewhere. However, Shamsie is an original devisor and manipulator of plots. The complex narrative moves along very efficiently - unlike some reviewers, I was especially gripped by the thriller-like final section and its surprising, if improbable, denoument. And there were a number of memorable images or epigrammatic remarks.
So, worth reading, but not superb, especially when compared with other writers on comparable territory - eg Nadeem Aslan, 'The Wasted Vigil'.
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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of this year's great reads 18 Aug. 2009
By DubaiReader VINE VOICE
I was bowled over by this book, beautifully written from page 1, it was quite simply, wonderful. I can also add that, having just returned from discussing the book at a book group - all 8 of us were unanimous in our praise.

It has a huge canvas - from Nagasaki in 1945, through Partition in India, the 9/11 bombing and war in Afghanistan. Along the way it covers a multitude of subjects. These include the long term effects of radiation damage, training camps for the Muhajideen and the suspicions that fell on Muslim citizens in the US after the Twin Towers were attacked.

The characters were well drawn and very cleverly interwoven through several generations and across three continents.

I can see why some reviewers felt it attempted too much, the second half is pretty eventful. However, for me, the sheer joy of the beautiful language and (not excessive) descriptions, held me transfixed.

Very highly recommended - this could be my favourite book this year!
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, but somewhat lacklustre 5 Dec. 2009
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
An ambitious yet easy read, Burnt Shadows is a book I find hard to place. Despite dealing with heavy issues of war and politics, there is something strangely leightweight about it. The storyline spans fifty years and a large swathe of the planet. It's original and interesting, but not entirely convincing. The characters are rather flat and it's hard to get emotionally involved. There's a lack of subtlety, the author falling foul of the old adage to 'show and not tell'.

I found the best sections of the book to be those in Pakistan, and the story's conclusion, which was rather courageous and had a twist I wouldn't have expected based on the rest of the novel. The author's attempt to link the topics of modern day Islamic extremism, the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, and the British Raj and Partition, is certainly brave and deserving of credit.

Whilst I cannot rave about the book for the reasons described above, I did find it an intriguing read and although not gripped by it, it does move along at a good pace. It would actually be a good holiday read for those who can't bear very light fiction but don't want anything too demanding. Maybe the award nominations and back cover comments gave me overly high expectations; think of it as a historical romance with a literary bent and you're more likely to come away satisfied.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and very moving 18 Aug. 2009
By SusieH
Burnt Shadows

Hiroko is newly engaged to Konrad when he is killed and she is injured by the Nagasaki nuclear bomb. Once sufficiently recovered physically, she travels to India to meet Konrad's family, James and Elizabeth. Hiroko is a gifted linguist and takes Urdu lessons from James' employee, Sajjad, to whom she becomes increasingly close, and marries, much to the disapproval of his family. At the time of partition, Sajjad's family, all Muslim, want to move to Pakistan, while he would prefer to stay in his beloved Dili/Delhi. He realizes that this may not be safe for Hiroko, as a foreigner who has been seen to be closely involved with the British, so moves away with her during the upheavals of partition, then, to his disappointment, is not allowed to move back to India post partition.

Hiroko and Sajjad's marriage is solid, a testament to their determination to give-and-take, and indeed to know when to give and when to take, and their sensitivity to and understanding of each other's cultures. This is so beautifully described that it could usefully be recommended reading for anyone considering marriage or a serious relationship. Very moving.

Disasters happen. Events ensure that Sajjad's family and Konrad's family stay forever linked. An elderly Elizabeth (now Ilse) and Hiroko rekindle their friendship. Raza and Harry are caught up in events in Afghanistan. Kim, post 9/11, worries for the safety of anyone she loves.

This is so beautiful!
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