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  • Shame
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3.9 out of 5 stars25
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 21 August 2002
Someone else who reviewed Shame on this site said that the book is a struggle if you don't know anything about Pakistan. I studied this book on my university course and, having no prior knowledge about Pakistan whatsoever, found it by far the most enjoyable, captivating and enlightening book on our course.
It was the first Rushdie book I read [I've since sought out other novels by him]. The character threads and plotlines throughout the novel are complex and tangled, but distinctive and engrossing enough to keep the reader on track. Rushdie's unmistakeable writing style, which seems to appeal highly to some and repulse others, struck me as nothing short of ingenious; knowledgeable and informed without being condescending, humourous without being silly, and informal without being trivial; one has the sense of having a story told verbally to them by a wise and well-travelled uncle with a twinkle in his eye and a wandering memory prone to spinning off on charming tangents. Hugely enjoyable, and like nothing I've ever read before.
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on 9 December 2012
I re-read Rushdie's novel now against the background of his 'Joseph Anton', and it is surprising how farsighted this book appears today. Many details seem to be foreshadowing, although, of course, they are not.
Apart from this, I love - as I did some 25 years ago - the colouring (or should I say seasoning?), the constant surprises (though I should not be surprised, really), the 'oriental' story-telling with its western breaks.
Three mothers to one child? - no problem!
Ali Baba's cave as a gigantic brothel for the in-laws of one family? - what an idea!

This book is sheer delight.

Thomas Brueckner
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on 28 September 2000
Though Rushdie begins the novel by introducing his hero, in a casual, Henry Fielding-style, and sets out what seems to be the main theme of the book (namely shame and embarrassment in the Islamic faith and culture), this book is never so simple. The narrative follows both numerous secondary characters, the hero never wholly central, in a winding but entertaining yarn which takes in as much Pakistan's own invented history as it does it present and the lives of the characters. Yet the interest of the reader is always held; the plot, though winding, never ceases to be fascinating in its endless blind alleys and diversions.
In the novel postmodernism is embraced fully; the past and present intermingle, and the narrative changes its focus throughout. Rushdie seeks to reconcile himself with Pakistan and his own Muslim upbringing in India and Britain, drawing heavily from his own life and from Pakistan's history. It is also Rushdie's answer to his critics, no doubt, as rather than ignoring Islam he challenges it and in particular there is a feminist aspect to the story. Rushdie shows himself to be at once a great writer in a the 'classic' tradition and a progressive and enlightened man.
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on 1 November 2011
Released between the critically acclaimed 'Midnight's Children' and the hugely controversial 'The Satanic Verses', Rushdie's 'Shame' is a book which has been largely forgotten and overlooked in recent years; but is it a novel which can stand toe-to-toe with Rushdie's best? Not really. The novel centers, unsurprisingly, around the idea of shame, weaving a self-consciously uncertain, and often fragmented tale of upper class Pakistani life, but also of the cruelties, suppression and rumour of a country which has seen it's fair share of conflict. There are flashes of Rushdie's brilliance in the book, such as in his exploration of the martyrdom of the wrongly revered former President Iskander Harappa, and in his discussion of issues like censorship, but too often the book stumbles. Rushdie's treatment of the brain-damaged Sufiya Zinobia is perhaps the novel's biggest mis-step, a bizarre story which seems to link her deficincies to evil, and by rumour, transforms her into a mythical white panther. The mystical elements of Rushdie's novels has rarely seemed so poorly used.

On the whole, 'Shame' is a work with definite promise, and some interesting explorations of the danger of restrictions on social freedoms, as well as a curious, and in-depth exploration of the issue of Shame itself, but this is a novel which never quite finds its footing, and passages of the book seem both akward, strange, and even rather dull. For Rushdie fans, there's enough here to make this a worthwhile, if rather frustrating read; but for the uninitiated, this is far from Rushdie's best work, and probably not the place to start.
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Shame is the third novel by Salman Rushdie. The narrator tells us novel is and is not about Pakistan. The main characters are Omar Khayyam Shakil (who represents shamelessness), Raza Hyder (read Zia-ul-Haq), his daughter Sufiya Zinobia (who represents shame), Iskander Harappa (read Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) and his daughter Arjumand Harappa, the virgin Ironpants (read Benazir Bhutto). Once again written in magical realism, the plot loosely follows events leading up to the reign of Bhutto and then the coup by Zia. A political novel, it sent me off to Wikipaedia to fill in my sorely-lacking background knowledge of these events in Pakistan. Not the epic length of Midnight's children or of later novels, it is filled with satire, cynical intrigue and black comedy. Rushdie, as always, demonstrates his mastery of language and keeps the reader engaged to the last line.
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on 22 October 2012
This book is a well researched and brilliantly written novel which would be of interest to anyone linked to Pakistan. Rushdie has a very playful narrative style which provides some comic relief as well as keeping the story from becoming monotonous.

The novel itself is about the reasons for Pakistan's struggles; still coming to terms with post colonialism, the effects of partition, conflict of the islamic religion, hostilities between west and east Pakistan, westernised elites leading the country. All these themes are encapsulated by the extremes of shame and shamefulness.

I have heard from some reviews that the book can be enjoyed without understanding the history of Pakistan. This may well be true but I do feel that you will get the most out of this book if you have an interest in the history and politics of Pakistan.
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on 8 June 2008
An interesting tale of Pakistan, and one that is still relevant today especially in the aftermath of the Bhutto assassination. Bhutto appears in the book as the Virgin Ironpants and doesn't receive a favourable reception. However few characters in this novel do, when reading this one can feel Rushdie's vitreous hatred for almost everybody.

The story tells of Pakistan between its military coups. Whilst all names have been changed and personalities turned into charactures it is still easy to see for anyone with a passing knowledge of Pakistani history to see who they represent. For all Rushdie's faults, of which there are many, no one can deny his skill as a writer. He writing is exceptional and his books contain many humorous incedents.
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on 15 September 2013
I wish I hadn't waited so long to read a Salman Rushdie novel. I'm now torn between rereading Shame at least three more times or starting into Rushdie's other works. The first chapter of Shame blew me away. The colour is beyond description. The chapters after that, simply took my breath away as I hadn't realised an author could take such liberties. When I'd become accustomed to the breath-taking story telling, I discovered I was now engrossed in the lives of the characters. That the characters included a country, cultures and a history, as well as people, helped me finally understand why Rushdie is just so important an artist.

I couldn't wait. I've ordered 'Midnight's Children' and 'The Satanic Verses.'
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on 31 January 2009
If you are not a fan of Rushdie then this is probably not the book for you. If you have never read Rushdie before then perhaps this is a good point at which to start, as you will not have to read for quite as long to discover if you like his writing style, as you would if you picked up Midnight's Children. This book is a delightful light hearted yet deeply moving fairy tail depicting the atrocity and hypocrisy of Pakistan's political history. Funny, ironic and sexy, this story took me on a ride through Rusdie's magical-realist world. Thoroughly enjoyable
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on 10 February 2011
This is the most powerful, most beautiful novel by Salman Rusdie. I have read most of his novels and this one is by far my favourite.
I would recommend that you read "Midnight's Children" first and then to move on to "Shame" directly without reading anything else in between.
It is a book that you will remember for the rest of your life. It reminds me constantly of the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez only dare I say it: In my view it is even better, more powerful and poetic and imaginative. A pure masterpiece of literature.
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