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Tahmima Anam’s debut novel is a stunning start to the trilogy set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh Liberation War and its aftermath which takes you on a harrowing yet breathtaking journey of a family torn apart by the hunger of war. With its striking, bleeding characters and an increasingly engaging plot A Golden Age blends fact and fiction to a point of utter perfection.
Readers don’t have to be even slightly inclined towards politics or history to get through this one. Anam’s prose reads almost like poetry, melding together one of the most excruciating times in South-East Asian history and a mother’s blind love for her children. Rehana Haque is an East Pakistani stuck on the other side of India in the wake of Mujib-ur-Rahman’s declaration of Bangladeshi independence from West Pakistan. She speaks Bengali and Urdu with confident ease while her almost-adult son and daughter don’t speak the latter, rather refuse to. Embracing the Bengali language along with student protests and white kurtas and saris (symbols of the uprising) both Maya and Sohail get caught up in the whirlwind of the proletarian struggle forcing Rehana to embark on an evocative chapter of her life alone. It is a deep and impactful story of how war affects the daily intricacies of a close-knitted family and their close ones. Anam deftly explains the larger picture through the private experiences and impossible choices of her characters in a very simple and uncomplicated way. One can almost feel the Pakistani soldiers’ stare affix upon Maya as her mother struggles to negotiate a deal while trying to keep her own indecision at bay, while at the same time you can smell the squalid air of the refugee camp, where the warmest shelter is only inside a construction pipe.
A master storyteller, Tahmima Anam portrays a mother’s fear and undying love for her children, that which is universal, with the war as a background score superbly.
Overall Rating: 10/10
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