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Customer Review

105 of 116 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finely worked prose covering deeply felt issues but too unresolved to reach the highest marks, 31 Oct. 2007
This review is from: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hardcover)
There is nothing bloated or overdone about Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Yet this sparse, finely cropped short novel tackles some of the challenging issues. Changez, a Pakistani Muslim from a once wealthy family in Lahore, experiences his own version of the American Dream when his talent and his Princeton scholarship lead him to a high-flying job in the world of New York finance and to relationship with a beautiful, enigmatic all-American girl who represents his passport into high society as well. But, over aromatic food and exotic drinks back in Lahore, Changez relates in a one-sided conservation with an American traveller how he never felt entirely at ease and how the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the subsequent repercussions - both political and personal ones - roused him from his American Dream: his reluctance to follow the advice of his mentor in business to focus on the fundamentals is replaced by an hankering to concentrate on fundamentals of a very different sort.

Yet at times the very sparsity which makes the novel so compelling leaves the reader in a void of ignorance. One is, for instance, driven to seek to understand Changez's conversion but the text provides so little challenge to Changez's narrative that it is left flimsy, incomplete and thus unresolved. This is perhaps Hamid's intention - to set out clearly that there are no easy answers; that Westerners will always fail to understand the East. In that sense this is a deeply unsettling novel and leaves one wishing for just a little more, a little more insight, a little more depth. The sense of `unfinishnessed' is only heightened by the ambiguous, unresolved but perfectly composed ending. Its short listing for the Booker Prize can be justified on the grounds of its fine prose, well-worked form and challenging topics alone but one can equally understand why it didn't win. It is perhaps in the end just a tad too ambiguous, too ethereal, to deliver the sort of challenge which would make it stand head and shoulders above the rest. All round an excellent read which will linger.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Mar 2011 19:54:02 GMT
Sue Ryan says:
I have already read the book and have been recommending it to my son to read. Looking to see if it is available to download to Kindle prompted me to read this review. I want my son to read it so that I can ask him his opinion - to see if his understanding, especially of the ending, coincides with mine. This review almost perfectly reflects my feelings about the story and I, too, have been left with a feeling of 'unfinishedness'. I would so like to understand more, to have asked questions that Changez was not challenged with. The story has stayed in my mind and I am prompted to think about it more than I was prepared for. I enjoyed it very much and, maybe, I enjoyed it more than I can recognise at the moment. I look forward to discussing it with my son, when he does read it, and also, to more books from the author.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jul 2013 19:55:44 BDT
Ocellar says:
Yes, the book's ending IS ambiguous... but isn't that the point? The novel destabilizes our stereotypes and probes us to question our snap judgements-- had the ending been clear cut, had we been told that Changez or the waiter had murdered the American or vice versa, wouldn't the novel's meaning then be undermined? Is the message not that we need to avoid pointing the finger of guilt, and that a guilty verdict is never an absolute truth?
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