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Burnt Shadows Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent read . Well researched in the way different historical events were stitched together. Our Bookclub voted it a hit .Published 29 days ago by Lucky Franker
I would give this book 10 stars if I could. It is beautifully written and flows effortlessly. The heroine in fascinating and the book spans from Nagasaki to 9/11. Read morePublished 3 months ago by MC
Great book with a really strong narrative storyline. This is really a family saga, but with many dramatic, historic events interwoven and directing the main characters' actions. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I enjoyed reading this story even though it wasn't the fast-paced action that's my usual genre. The story spans most of the adult life of the heroine and holds interest with... Read morePublished 3 months ago by GardenDesigner