I visited Bangladesh over twenty years ago, when my mother lived there for several years. From all that we see of it in the news over here in Canada, you would think the country is in a perpetual state of flood/disaster/famine. So the first thing I thought on arrival was how colourful it was. Blue skies, brilliant flowers, colourful chaotic markets. But I felt like I was towing bad luck behind me. It was the last stop after a tour of India and Kashmir, and we had encountered Kashmiri curfews because Pakistan's General Zia had just been killed that day, and Srinigar was taut with fear. Kashmir's tourist industry would soon collapse. We then went on to Kathmandu, where we came upon a human chain dredging a river looking for bodies, after a busy but rickety wooden bridge collapsed. And sure enough, within a week or two of arrival, the floods arrived in Dhaka, displacing thousands. And then I saw the brown dirty waters, gray skies and tense worried faces that were such a familiar sight on the newscasts. The trip was cut short, in order to escape the rising waters, and I never felt like I had the chance to properly 'meet' the country.
So it was good to read a novel written by a Bengali, and feel like she has shown me a personal portrait of a family living through, and taking part in, the country's tumultuous birth in 1971. This was Tahmima Anam's first novel, and it won a Commonwealth Prize for best first book. It is an old-fashioned yarn of family love triumphing over adversity, then being further tried by the murky oppressions of rebellion and war, with a good twist to the ending.
I'm going to start right into the next book of this trilogy, [b:The Good Muslim|11331177|The Good Muslim|Tahmima Anam|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51oshmB6B3L._SL75_.jpg|14600102], while the characters are still fresh in my mind. It will be interesting too, to see if and how Anam's writing style has changed for this book that has come out 3 years after the first one.