Burnt Shadows

Burnt Shadows

Paperback - 2009
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Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
An Orange Prize Finalist

Nagasaki, August 9, 1945. Hiroko Tanaka watches her lover from the veranda as he leaves. Sunlight streams across Urakami Valley, and then the world goes white.

In the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb, Hiroko leaves Japan in search of new beginnings. From Delhi, amid India's cry for independence from British colonial rule, to New York City in the immediate wake of 9/11, to the novel's astonishing climax in Afghanistan, a violent history casts its shadow the entire world over. Sweeping in its scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, this is a tale of love and war, of three generations, and three world-changing historic events. Kamila Shamsie's Burnt Shadows is a story for our time by "a writer of immense ambition and strength. . . . This is an absorbing novel that commands in the reader a powerful emotional and intellectual response" (Salman Rushdie).

Published: New York : Picador, 2009.
Edition: 1st Picador ed.
ISBN: 9780312551872
Branch Call Number: F SHA
Characteristics: 370 p. ;,21 cm.


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Jul 31, 2017

A wide-ranging book, from Nagasaki to Pakistan and Afghanistan after 9/11. This is a novel, however, so its focus is on individual people and what these events do to two intertwined families. The writing is delicious, and heartbreaking. Each character grows, or disintegrates, under the pressure of their lives. When the 2nd bomb is dropped, Hiroko watches her father and German fiance die, as the black cranes on her mother's kimono burn themselves onto her back, leaving terrible scars which have no feeling. After throwing herself into three years of chaotic life with Tokyo's GI's, she finally goes to Delhi to find her fiance's sister and brother-in-law. John and Ilse divorce and Ilse moves to NYC, where Hiroko finds restful home with her in old age. John wants to kick her out, but Ilse takes her in, feeling a human need to atone. Hiroko feels useless, but languages come easy to her, so she asks for a tutor in Urdu. Sajjad fall in love with her, they marry, and, after a late miscarriage due to her radiation sickness, she has a son who becomes the focus of her life. He is secretive, and it takes a long time for her to learn that he's a spy for the CIA, recruited by a family member. That doesn't stop Hiroko loving her son Raza, but it increases her fear for him, and "forces" him to lie to her because he loves her. The descriptions are intense and fully rounded, from the land to the training camps to the food to the stench of the slums. The people are just as fully described. A tour de force by a woman born in Pakistan, who has studied and taught in the US, and teaches in the UK. I'll read her other novels as well.

Apr 08, 2013

Ambitious and complex, this is the intersecting story of two families. Shamsie tackles big themes - cultural identity, the impact of war - in a thought-provoking way.

Oct 19, 2010

Rich with detail. An intelligent read. Shamsie successfully allows the reader to become intimately aware of each characters' nuances, culture and background by her ability to turn prose into a multi-layered painting. I loved the book.

quagga Nov 27, 2009

Pakistani-born Shamsie has written an ambitious saga about the entwined lives of two families: the Tanaka-Ashrafs (Japanese and Urdu) and the Weiss-Burtons (German and English). This novel threads together world events, starting in 1945 with the atomic bombing of Nagasaki; moving to Delhi in 1947, with the departure of the British colonists and the partition of Pakistan; then to Afghanistan in 1982-83, where the mujahideen are battling Soviet occupation of their country; ending in New York in 2001-2, after the terrorists attacks that felled the World Trade Towers. An unforgettable, immensely powerful book.


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