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Burnt Shadowsby Kamila Shamsie
Synopses & Reviews
Sweeping in scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of disasters elided and confronted, loyalties offered and repaid, and loves rewarded and betrayed.
August 9, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka steps out onto her veranda, taking in the view of the terraced slopes leading up to the sky. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, she is twenty-one, in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss.
In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes with the sound of fire and the horror of realization. In the numbing aftermath of a bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost.
In search of new beginnings, Hiroko travels to Delhi two years later. There she walks into the lives of Konrad's half-sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee, Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and old wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts. But the shadows of history — personal, political — are cast over the entwined worlds of the Burtons, Ashrafs, and Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York, and in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound them together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.
"Shamsie takes readers on a tour de force in this examination of the impact of war, following a trajectory from the devastation of Nagasaki in WWII through the conflict-ridden formation of Pakistan in the late 1940s to post-9/11 Manhattan and war-torn Afghanistan. Konrad Weiss, living in Nagasaki in the summer of 1945, hires a local woman, Hiroko Tanaka, to help him write a book about the city. The romance that blossoms is cut short when the atom bomb falls, killing Konrad, and after a while, Hiroko, feeling she can no longer stay in her country, travels to India to find Konrad's sister, Ilse, the wife of a British lawyer enjoying the privileges of the British raj's final days. From there, Shamsie brilliantly interweaves the lives of an array of characters as she brings the story forward to the 1980s, then to the beginning of the 21st century, exploring the clashes between loyalty to family, homeland and cause. Shamsie's unsparing look at how individuals respond when war affects their world makes for an intriguing, heartrending tale of human connection." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Burnt Shadows is audacious in its ambition, epic in its scope. A startling expansion of the author's intentions, imagination and craftsmanship. One can only admire the huge advances she has made, and helped us to make, in understanding the new global tensions."--Anita Desai
"One of the finest writers at work anywhere, period . . . A great, absorbing novel, one that will be with us a long time."--Rick Simonson, Elliot Bay Book Company
"Kamila Shamsie opens a vista onto the century we have just lived through--pointing out its terror and its solace. She is so extraordinary a writer that she also offers hints about the century we are living through--the dark corners that contain challenges, as well as the paths that lead to beauty's lair."--Nadeem Aslam, author of Maps for Lost Lovers
"The most ambitious novel yet by this talented writer. In Burnt Shadows, Kamila Samsie casts her imagination remarkably far and wide, through time and across continents." Mohsin Hamid
"Kamila Shamsie is a writer of immense ambition and strength. She understands a great deal about the ways in which the world's many tragedies and histories shape one another, and about how human beings can try to avoid being crushed by their fate and can discover their humanity, even in the fiercest combat zones of the age. Burnt Shadows is an absorbing novel that commands, in the reader, a powerful emotional and intellectual response." Salman Rushdie
Beginning on August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, and ending in a prison cell in the US in 2002, as a man is waiting to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of love and betrayal.
Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, her world is suddenly and irrevocably altered. In the numbing aftermath of the atomic bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, two years later, Hiroko travels to Delhi. It is there that her life will become intertwined with that of Konrad's half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu.
With the partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan, Hiroko will find herself displaced once again, in a world where old wars are replaced by new conflicts. But the shadows of history — personal and political — are cast over the interrelated worlds of the Burtons, the Ashrafs, and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York and, in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound these families together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.
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. 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).
About the Author
KAMILA SHAMSIE was born in 1973 in Karachi. She has studied and taught in the USA. Two of her previous novels, Kartography and Broken Verses, have won awards from Pakistan's Academey of Letters. She writes for The Guardian (UK) and frequently broadcasts on the BBC.
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