Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

"Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid
First published in 2017
231 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A totally unique book worth a read despite a few flaws.

The Long Of It:
I was instantly intrigued when I heard about "Exit West" a few months before its release: a love story set in an anonymous Middle Eastern country on the brink of war... plus a dash of magical realism?! The book didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it was refreshing to read something so different, both in plot and in writing style.

"Exit West" is a multi-faceted story. On the one hand, it's about a young couple with a fledgling relationship at a time when their country is becoming increasingly dangerous. It's illegal for them to hold hands walking down the street, to say nothing of the music they listen to, the drugs they do and the intimacy they share.

On the other hand, it's about a phenomenon that changes the world: certain random doors, rather than letting one into the next room, suddenly open up in a wholly new country. By traveling through the right doors, a person might escape her war-ravaged city and wind up in England, or America, or Rio de Janiero.

This is the fascinating backdrop for the Saeed and Nadia's relationship, and it raises all sorts of interesting questions, many of which Hamid attempts to answer. How do better-off countries deal with a sudden influx of thousands of migrants from third-world and war-torn countries? How do those countries' residents react? What kind of living conditions and jobs do the migrants find on the other side of the door? How does this affect local and world government? And on a smaller scale, how does Saeed and Nadia's love story stand up to the test of all this change and tension?

In addition to the unique plot, the writing was a style all Hamid's own. The book features some really delightful, beautiful turns of phrase, but Hamid's ridiculously long run-on sentences took a bit of getting used to. In contrast to his wordy writing style, the intriguing premise of the doors could easily have turned into a thousand-page epic, but Hamid pared it down to just over 200 pages. I'm one of those readers who appreciates lots of detail and explanation, and at times I definitely did want more information on the doors. (Why did they start popping up? How do they work? Are they finite or will there be doors forevermore?) But overall, I enjoyed the brevity -- it fit with the story.

I do agree with other reviewers who said the first part of the book was better-done than the latter portion. It started off so strong; I enjoyed meeting Saeed and Nadia during such a tenuous time, and traveling with them through their first door. The last third or so was not nearly so captivating, and it was much more forgettable. I still recommend this original, thought-provoking novel, though -- and it's quick enough to read in a day!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! Comments make my day, and I read and appreciate every single one!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...