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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 25 March 2014
In the fictionalized version of the city of Mir Ali in Pakistan, which lies close to the border with Afghanistan, three brothers are having breakfast on what is one of the most important festival days in the Muslim calendar, Eid.
One of the brothers Aman Erum, recently returned from studying in America. Sikandar has recently lost his son in an attack on the hospital where he works. His wife Mina who was a lecturer in the department of psychology at the same hospital, has disengaged herself from her previous life and now attends the funerals of strangers in an attempt to `find' her son.
The youngest brother, Hayat, is fighting a long running war to have Mir Ali separated from Pakistani and become part of Afghanistan.
After the brothers have finished breakfast they will part ways and make decisions that may affect each other lives forever.
The novel is set during one morning during the hours of 9am and noon. However, the novel moves from that morning to the past as we find out what lead the three brothers and their families to this point of time and the decisions they feel they have to make.
Though the triumvirate of brothers are initially to be read as the main characters of the novel it becomes apparent as the novel enters its middle section that in fact the two main protagonists are two women; Mina the wife of Sikandar and Samarra who fights alongside Hayat and has a relationship with him and his brother Aman Erum. Mina's pain and anguish at the death of her son, Zalan is so well crafted, so palpable that the reader feels compelled to look away from the page sensing the character Mina, will turn on us the reader for intruding in her suffering.
Samarra is the epitome of the new Pakistan woman. Samarra is no longer willing to be a slave to men or a background player in her country's future. Her childhood has been played out against 9/11, Pakistan's war against insurgency, Pakistan's willingness to open its airspace to the USA and towns like Mir Ali being bombed by drones. All these and other events in her life have inextricably bound her to this fateful morning. The author has created Samarra using words as the veins and arteries and the pages as bone and her story as Samarra's skin. Samarra has been lovingly drawn and born of the author's emotions.
However, the same cannot be said of two of the three brothers; Hayat and Sikandar. While Aman Eram is a fully rounded character I felt by the end of the book that Hayat and Sakinder were as unknown to me as they were on page one. The two brother's identities become smothered by their strong well written female counterparts. Hayat's need to become a fighter with the Mir Ali underground is never fully explained and what is related is far from satisfactory.
At times the book read like a polemical diatribe with the author, niece of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, riding her high horse for all its worth. Samarra and Hayat are looked upon as heroic with the author leaving us in no doubt in that what they are doing is right. But the question should have been asked if Samarra and Hayat are terrorists or freedom fighters. We all know the cliché `one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter', ( Nelson Mandela, Che Guevara, Michael Collins to name but a few), but this concept is never explored and had it been then it would have helped make this novel a more satisfactory read.

Number of Pages - 231

Sex Scenes - None

Profanity - None

Genre - Fiction.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 June 2014
Written with admirable economy, 'The Shadow of the Crescent Moon' focusses on a single family and a single day. The setting is the tribal areas of Pakistan close to the Afghan border, a region familiar from news bulletins. It was a fascinating insight into the lives of people in this troubled area and the politics of the region, although at this relatively short length it can't offer more than a glimpse. The action centres around three brothers who could each be considered to represent different viewpoints on life. The eldest is ambitious and willing to compromise principle in order to get ahead in life. The middle son is a mild mannered doctor who just wants to live his life as best he can. And the youngest is the rebel and idealist, prepared to risk his life for a cause.

The story follows each brother as he goes about his business on a single, soon to be momentous, day. It also gives us some details about their past and backstory so we can understand the context of their actions. There are two female characters - the wife of one brother, and the girlfriend of another. Their stories are also revealed and they play a key part in the events that unfold. The book paints a picture of a troubled region and a people who suffer at the hands of both the army and the insurgency. This is highlighted beautifully right at the beginning with the three brothers each choosing a different mosque to pray in so that if one of them is attacked, they will not all three perish. This was a very simple and effective way to bring home what it must be like to live somewhere chronically unstable.

The writing style is clean and very economical. There is no wasted time or padding here. This material could have allowed a much longer book, but the author chose to focus on the quality and not the quantity. I always admire this in a writer, and it generally makes for better quality as it means what is included has to be twice as effective. In this case, I found it a very well written and easy to read story and one that left a stronger impression on me than its length would suggest.

My only gripe is around the ending (I'm not going to spoil it, so you're OK to read on). I found it very abrupt and sudden, and I didn't really understand it. I felt like I'd missed something major - perhaps the entire point of the book. I felt it was working itself up nicely to a dramatic conclusion, and then just stopped short. So I was left feeling confused and unsatisfied, after a book that I'd thoroughly enjoyed up until that point.

This is a good book, well written and easy to read. It is interesting and relevant given that this region is regularly in the news. It gives some more insight into the challenges faced by the people of the area, and also the nature of Pakistan which I'd never really appreciated as being a diverse country with internal divisions. It is also an enjoyable story in its own right and has some good moral dilemmas to explore. My criticisms are that it misses a few opportunities and ends too suddenly. But it's still worth a read, particularly if you have an interest in the region or its politics.
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on 23 January 2014
The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is the first novel by Fatima Bhutto, who is the granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, whose sister was Benazir Bhutto. Fatima Bhutto graduated from Columbia University in 2004. She lives in Karachi, and is a freelance writer. Interestingly, her website does not mention this book. Instead, it mentions three other books. Judging by one article on her website, she seems to be a political radical.

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon is an interesting novel, relatively brief and quite intense. It is set in the tribal region of northwest Pakistan and involves three brothers who are preparing to celebrate Eid, the Muslim feast at the end of Ramadan. The oldest son has decided to leave his childhood sweetheart and go into business away from his home town of Mir Ali. The middle son has become a doctor in Mir Ali and the youngest has joined his brother's sweetheart as an insurgent. In the novel, Mir Ali is the focal point for the armed struggle between Pakistan's army and local people who crave their own freedom.

Fatima Bhutto does a very good job describing the culture, the issues, the people and the setting. One gets the sense of a long-running, life-and-death struggle in the northwest of Pakistan. It is clear that the author's sentiments are with the insurgents.

I found the novel frustrating in the sense that it lacks focus. There is an insurgent plot to kill a minister, and the story seems to be headed to a climax there, but the novel ends in uncertainty. Was he killed? Who killed him? Or if not, why not? There is some uncertainty as to who the insurgents are. Some are Taliban; some are ordinary people. What is the relationship between them? The Pakistani government is clearly an evil influence, but in a book like this which is somewhat polemical, it would be a redeeming feature to hint more broadly at what the government should do differently (other than bringing in local conscripts). There are also some religious issues: notably Sunnis vs. Shiites, but there are problems for Christians and Hindus, as well. How do these issues fit into the over-arching themes of justice and freedom?

Ms. Bhutto's writing in quite engaging. Occasionally, there is a too long sentence which requires a second reading to gain understanding. And, like all 'young, modern authors' she likes to use unconventional words rather than the conventional. Mostly, this works well, but there is the occasional grating which disturbs the flow. The characterisation of the two older brothers, the female sweetheart and the Pakistani colonel are all clear and intriguing. The character of the youngest brother - the insurgent - is somewhat opaque. We can understand why the two older brothers do what they do, but what - apart from his father's lectures - motivates this brother to be an insurgent?

An interesting book and a particularly interesting author. I'm sure we'll hear more from her!
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on 6 February 2014
A story set in troubled Mir Ali describes the actions of several individuals caught between fires of insurgency. They have to juggle combinations of issues they can and cannot control. The story evolves in a hotchpotch of insanity, rebellion and manipulation. It’s a wonderful and memorable book to read, beautifully written. I can’t remember anything like it.
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on 15 November 2014
This is a deceptively subtle book. The narrative is steady and stoically relayed, yet it manages to pierce right through you. The story is the unfolding of a single day, or rather, a single morning. As the Eid morning of each of the three brothers unravels, Fatima Bhutto reveals their histories leading up to this present moment.
The book is haunting and so very revealing. The plight of the people of Mir Ali burrows deep into the conscience as does the pain of knowing that although this is a work of fiction, it has a strong root in the reality of many people in the northern provinces of Pakistan.
It is an excellent debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Fatima Bhutto.
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The problem I had with this book is that it presupposed more knowledge than I happen to have, and without doing quite a bit of research I couldn’t work out what was going on. Set over the course of one morning and located in Waziristan, a tribal region of Pakistan by the Afghan border, it tells of the fortunes of three brothers whose reaction to the political situation forces them to make difficult decisions. Two of them are accompanied by the women they love, adding another layer to the complexity as each woman is reacting to the situation in her own way. The trouble was I didn’t really understand what was going on. There are Shias and Sunnis and the Taliban and the Pakistan military and an insurgency, but who is on which side and whether the brothers’ actions are justified or not escaped me. The writing was relatively compelling in its descriptions of daily life in such a turbulent area, and the stories of loss and grief moving. There are one or two excellent set pieces too, particularly one where one of the brothers goes to apply for an American visa. However, to the uninitiated it felt quite impenetrable. My fault, probably, but perhaps a short explanatory note would have been helpful.
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on 15 April 2016
I decided to put The Shadow of the Crescent Moon on my reading list after listening to an interview with the author. It took me a couple of years to eventually get around to acquiring a copy.
My initial thoughts on commencing, was not positive. The first couple of chapter did not ‘draw me in’. This is the first novel I’ve read about Pakistan and was not familiar with the culture. However I’m glad I persevered. By chapter five I was captivated. The writing is beautifully expressive and the characterisations excellent.

The story is about one day in the life of three brothers. It tells the tale of people trying to live in a world ravaged by war and terror and the consequences of peoples’ actions.
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on 18 May 2014
I read with breathless anticipation of a terrible ending to this story of family's divided loyalties on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Beautifully written, in the hushed voices of the participants, but ultimately it was unsatisfying
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on 21 February 2015
Book was in very good condition but didn't like the story much. It seemed to be rather a slow plodding story but I didn't read many chapters. Don't normally not finish a book but this one...........
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on 12 May 2014
I had heard about this book so thought I would give it a try. Having just finished it I am left unsure. I did enjoy it but I guess I was expecting more
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