Top critical review
48 people found this helpful
Ambitious, but somewhat lacklustre
on 5 December 2009
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.