Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant FundamentalistThe Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Before anything else, kudos to Mohsin Hamid for attempting a monologue that lasted the whole novel, all 184 pages, and for never letting it go haywire.

Unapologetic, frank, not always inclined at being politically correct, charming, seductively polite, a straight-A Princeton graduate, an Underwood Sampsons employee earning $80,000 and a man who made it his mission, on returning to his homeland in Pakistan, as a profeesor in a university, 'to advocate Pakistan's disengagement with America'. That's what our reluctant fundamentalist turned out to be like.

The beginning was good in the sense that it was a flat 2 days flipkart delivery and this slim book served as good company on an otherwise boring department picnic.

I kept expecting for the monologue to end, for i found it really odd, never having read anything of this sort earlier, but it didn't and though it could never escape my consciousness till the very end that it was after all still a monologue, I guess the eerie feeling due to the unfamiliarity soon disappeared.

Changez was the last name on earth i expected the protagonist to have, and honestly, i kept searching for the genius behind the name throughout, without any success. His unusual relationship with his girlfriend ERICA (for AMERICA) and his rapid elevations in his company Underwood Sampsons (for US)as also the motto of his company- stick to the fundamentals (referring to his reluctant fundamentalism)gave the story a good build-up for the ensuing gravity  and brilliance.

the unfinished love story and the abrupt, ambiguous ending added great depth. How fundamentalism takes into its folds the most unlikeliest of victims was portrayed beautifully, I felt, without making the protagonist sound much like a victim and that was really powerful.

I can almost here u say that if everything was so good, then why only 3 stars?
Because, m still not clear whether I liked this book or not.
Tt was sort of a love-hate relationship. I absolutely loved the parts of Erica and Changez and the element of 'understatement' throughout the narrative but somehow, I didn't find the story unforgettable.

For some, the ending was brilliant(a part of me still finds the ambiguous ending very clever) for it provided food for thought and was open to speculation and all sorts of interpretations. but to me, to another part of me, that in itself was also a weakness.
I closed the book with a feeling of being unsatiated, having chewed and gulped much with the appetite still unsatisfied.

A good, short read, but one that finished without making much of an impact. At times brilliant, at times powerful, but for some reason, just not quite there.

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