Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

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Mohsin Hamid is clearly a writer of some talent but the subject matter of this book made it hard for me to accept this. In short terms, prose good, plot/story bad.

A quick feminist review: where are all the women? I can only count four: his mother, his love interest, his love interest’s mother and his love interest’s nurse. And of course they are all banal stereotypes.

Back to the book review, I found the main character thoroughly unlikeable, conceited and obsessed with unimportant matters like status and pride. The more I think about it, the more I believe that where this book could have been an important contribution to the at the time and still current Islam versus the West debate, it is instead a one-dimensional, failed-to-achieve-its-potential novel. Erica’s story was a far more interesting one and had it been told in The Great Gatsby way, this could have been a triumph.

Instead, we watch Changez, the main character, essentially pursue her to her death without even a whisper of remorse. “I am a lover of America,” he states at the start of the book but as he narrates his story, it quickly becomes clear that this is not the case and by the cliffhanger ending, I am left to wonder how much he lied throughout the whole book.

In a word: unsatisfying.

2 stars

*First published on Goodreads 9 October 2014

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