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Burnt Shadows by [Shamsie, Kamila]
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Burnt Shadows Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Length: 384 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

Review

'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

Review

'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: 2105 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
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #32,838 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
Shamsie is a talented writer, but she has overstretched herself by trying to knit together too many major historical events from different parts of the world and only partly succeeds in producing a coherent narrative.
What is the link between the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in World War II, the partition of India in 1947, the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and America post- 9/11? They are the big events that affect two fictional families over three generations. It is where the Japanese-Pakistani Tanaka-Ashrafs and the British-German-American Burtons connect, separate, and then connect again. But for me the links between the two families sometimes felt contrived.

I identified with Hiroko in the beginning and was drawn into her story in Nagasaki and her life in Pakistan. But after her husband is killed around half way through the book, the plot seems to fall apart. The focus shifts to Hiroko's son Raza and the narrative changes gear, almost into a different genre, abandoning a more literary style (which Shamsie does well) in favour of intrigue involving the CIA and private security groups in Afghanistan. Compared to his mother Hiroko, Raza does not come alive for me, and the link between Raza Ashraf and Kim Burton is rather bizarre and not very convincing. In any case, the thriller genre does not appear to be Shamsie's forte.

With so many big events in the background, what should really be a longer story has been squeezed into 375 pages, jumping from one event to another and leaving large chunks for the reader to fill in from their own knowledge and imagination. The truly beautiful writing in the earlier part of the narrative is not sustained, and what is left is a dog's dinner of a plot.
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Format: Paperback
I can't describe the plot of Burnt Shadows better than the blurb on the back cover of the book, so I have copied it here:

August 9th, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanakasteps 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 withthe man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes withthe 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 to find Konrad's relatives, and falls in love with their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from who 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 two families 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.

Burnt Shadows is an epic book, spanning both generations and continents. There were many amazing sections in this book; the first chapter in particular was incredible, the subtle building of tension was brilliantly achieved, and the horror of the atomic blast, was sensitively written.

I loved the central character, Hiroko; she overcame so many tragedies, but remained a believable stalwart throughout.
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