books

Season of the Rainbirds by Nadeem Aslam

My voracious reading has slowed. In some ways, I blame the distraction of the Tim Hortons gift card I got for my birthday. It’s harder to read on the subway when you’re juggling a hot coffee that’s burning your hand even though you got a double cup, a big yellow shoulder bag containing your lunch and all the little bits of things you need to get through your commute and your day, and a book. 
In some ways, I also blame this book. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?
Season of the Rainbirds

by Nadeem Aslam

Set in a primarily Islamic remote village in Pakistan, this novel begins with the murder of a prominent man in the community and centres around letters, lost in a train crash 19 years ago, found again. As the people of the village wait for the letters to be delivered, rumours run rampant.

I thought I would love this book. After all, I have come to absolutely adore books that centre on a culture I’m completely unfamiliar with. I love digging into the daily lives of other people, being given an ‘in’ into a world that is otherwise inaccessible to me. It was very well written, but it lost me in two places:

One: Who was the main character?I suppose you could make the claim that Maulana Hafeez, one of two religious leaders in town, is the main character. But the novel also jumped to the perspective of the barber, the lawyer, the deputy commissioner, the teacher… I’m sure I’m missing a few. On one hand, this provided a well-rounded view of the town. On the other hand, it was confusing, but even worse, held the reader at a distance, unable to get to know and really sympathize with any one character.

Two: Where were the women?

Rarely did Aslam write from the perspective of the town’s women. Sure, they’re there. Mourning. Cooking. Cleaning up water lizards from every nook and cranny of the village’s homes. One is even breaking the rules, a Christian woman, living out of wedlock with a Muslim man. But their voices are missing from the pages of this book. 
I understand that this may be indicative of the culture, and it may, actually, say something about me that I require the perspective of a woman in order to enjoy a novel. I also understand that neither of these issues make this a bad book. These issues do, however, make this a book that will never make my top 10 list. 
What are you reading these days?
(Disclosure: Random House of Canada provided me with a copy of this novel for review purposes. Thanks Random House! Obviously, these are still my own opinions.)
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