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4.3 out of 5 stars40
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 28 April 2013
This must be one of the best books I have read all year. It was recommended by a friend who raved about it. However I will admit it took me a little while to get drawn into it, becasause although the writing is poetic and urgent and hugely evocative - particularly on the sensual level - I found that the characters of foster-brothers Jeo and Mikal, and their wider family, were a little sketchily drawn to come fully alive. However, as the story built, that issue was swiftly swept aside, and I became quite haunted by the novel's extraordinary landscapes and world. Set in post 9/11 Pakistan and Afghanistan, it follows the brothers' chilling journey into jihad and (in Mikal's case) back again, via some of the most thrilling set-pieces I have read in a long time.I greatly admired Aslam's ability to conjure beauty amid chaos and horror, and to convey the way womens' lives are so grimly circumscribed by the dictates of a religion which no-one dares to openly defy. Curiously enough it was the few almost silent atheists at the margins to the book who spoke loudest about the tyrrany of contemporary life in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This novel has been described as a masterpiece: in my opinion, it fully deserves that title.
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on 15 April 2013
I rate Nadeem Aslam very highly as a writer. His background probably gives him an insight into the whole knotty nexus where the intelligent and idealistic young Pakistani meets, not only western values but also western incomprehension and militant violence, as well as traditional Afghanistani/Pakistani brutality and Islamic fundamentalism. Obviously this an area which is incredibly difficult not only to understand and to be fair to but also very tricky to incorporate into a workable plot for a novel. In his previous book 'The Wasted Vigil' Nadeem pretty well managed it and produced what is in my opinion one of the best novels of recent years, as near as dammit, a masterpiece, so I have been eagerly waiting for his next, unfortunately this time, applying the rigorous standards which his talent deserves, he hasn't managed to dominate the always interesting ingredients and construct a satisfying work.
It's always interesting, full of fine moments, but also of unconvincing ones and unbelievable coincidences. Nor is the personal drama fulfilled in a dramatic or mythic way.
If you know little of Pakistan and Afghanistan, if you haven't thought much about American actions there, haven't much idea of how living in an Islamic society might be, then read it. You'll learn something but if you're looking for a satisfying, well constructed piece of literature you may be disappointed, as I was. Though I will obviously and eagerly read his next.

Pedro
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on 30 January 2013
When you read a Nadeem Aslam novel, you mull over it. You take in his words and breathe what he has to say. You are aware of the political undertones in his books. At times, you also may not like what you read. You might also detest some parts. You will yell in happiness when something good happens to one of his characters. You want to keep the book aside and you will not be able to, because that is the power of his books. You will ignore everything else and read on, because Aslam has a story to tell and his characters will talk to you. They will make you believe and sometimes make you cry and live as well.

"The Blind Man's Garden" according to me is one of the best books that Aslam has written. I have read all his books and while all his books have the much needed political angle; this one to me is most emotional and heart-wrenching in a lot of places. I interviewed Nadeem Aslam at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year (which will be a different post) and he was so passionate about the book and the way he spoke with me. The book almost came alive through him. All his characters and the situations he put them through almost seemed surreal and believable. For me that is the craft of a great storyteller. "The Blind Man's Garden" makes you feel and think about humans and what does war do to them. He gets into the heart of his characters and makes them speak for themselves. He makes them tell their stories, their lives spread across the canvas of his landscape, of time unknown and sometimes time is of great essence. This is precisely why I cannot help myself but mark almost every other line on every other page of an Aslam novel.

Jeo and his foster-brother Mikal leave their home in a small Pakistani city not to fight with the Taliban but to help care for the wounded victims. The Western Armies have invaded Afghanistan and the brothers only want to help the wounded, whether Afghani or the Americans. They only want to help and yet they get embroiled deep into the war as its unwilling soldiers. At the same time left behind is Jeo's wife and her superstitious mother, and their father Rohan, who is slowly but surely turning blind. The war is seen through from all perspectives and that is the crux of the story.

For me everything worked in the book. The writing is sharp and hits in places that you would not expect it to. The past and the present situations merge beautifully throughout the entire narrative. In fact, what I loved the most about the book was the way the structure was built and at the same time the prose seemed very fluid, as though it was waiting to flow through the reader's mind and heart. The heart of the book is about everything surrounding the war - lost children, grieving parents, hopeful wives and children who are left behind wondering when their fathers will return. Despite all this, what strings the book together is hope, which is unending and everlasting.

There are a lot of sub-elements and plots to the book (which I will not spoil for you) that add to the beauty of this wonderfully written novel. There is beauty and at the same time there is this sharp ache and a prayer that all should go well for the characters that you have come to known while reading the book. As a reader, I found myself hoping that all went well. Such is the power of this magnificent read. It is for sure one of the best I will read this year.

Here are some quotes from the book:

"History is a third parent."

"The logic is that there are no innocent people in a guilty nation."

"No," he said, "but before they lose, they harm the good people. That is what I am afraid of."
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on 18 April 2014
After reading the book I felt much impressed, because it gave me an insight into life in Pakistan and I did not expect it to be this way.
Embedded in a moving family saga the reader learns about the hard life in rural Pakistan, presented by Rohan's family who is very much affected by the struggle between leading a peaceful life and the aftermaths of 9/11. Even though it is fiction, the characters become quite vivid, but for a westerner remain quite strange the way they are shaped by tradition and beliefs. The book helps to understand the cultural differences and difficulties Pakistan has to struggle with.
The story is well written, has a rather poetic touch, unfolding beauty and unbelievable religious fanaticism at the same time.The writer is able to keep the tension up to the end and I could not stop reading the book .
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on 20 February 2013
The author sets his story in the beauty of the natural world in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, he describes the horrors of religious conflict unflinchingly.

The central character, Mikal, is a sensitive man caught up in the confusing and violent actions of Afghani warlords, Muslim terrorists, and American soldiers. Mikal is captured and traded by all three factions, even though he is innocent of any violent intentions. In places the story is a difficult read, with many different strands interweaving in the narrative. However, the beautifully drawn main characters lead the reader on through their individual hopes and fears.

The essence of life in such a complex, conflicting and violent country is vividly portrayed and provides many valuable insights into the "war on terror".
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on 21 February 2013
A poignant story revealing the chasms of misunderstanding separating competing forces in the aftermath of 9/11 in NW Pakistan and Afghanistan. Aslam takes the reader into the minds of his characters while also providing a narrative of adventure story like action. At times there are passages of poetic beauty and tenderness, at others depiction of brutality and cruelty to make a sensitive reader wince, while at yet others there are accounts of dreadful actions driven by a frightening faith and righteousness augmented by ignorance -- on both sides of the chasm. Ultimately, there is a resolution which invokes the resilience of the human spirit and shared humanity. This is a novel that I am very glad to have read.
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on 9 December 2014
A story with many twists and turns. It reveals the horrors of war brought about by politics and religion and the dreadful effects it can have on simple people who are just trying to survive amid deceit and corruption. It is frustrating to read about the lack of power that many women have in these situations and the repression they experience, accepted sometimes because they have no experience of anything else. Despite all this goodness and honour shows through.
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on 6 May 2014
This was a little difficult to follow in places but the story was good and certainly makes you think.

Very sad in some parts and not a lot to lift the spirits but gives a good insight into how ordinary, non-militant, muslims live and how the taliban makes their lives a misery.

I would like to see this book required reading in all schools.
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on 12 November 2013
Fascinating story combining the different paths taken by the male and female characters in a very restricted culture with a wider sense of the world context. Manages to explore and illuminate the global picture through minute sketches of individual, interconnected lives. A beautifully written book!
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on 6 January 2015
Excellently written, an insightful, informative and gripping novel set in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Fascinating look into life for people in these countries and how their perceptions and behaviours are influenced by history, culture as well as current events.
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