Jennmarie68, March 12, 2010 (view all comments by Jennmarie68)
This is a story that follows Hiroko through her life. The story starts in Japan during WWII and ends in 2002. We follow Hiroko as she loves, loses, and ages. While the events in history play second to the story there are many things that Hiroko deals with: the bombing in Nagasaki, the split of India and Pakistan, 9/11. The characters are well rounded, and as the story jumps from one to the other we really get a sense of who these people are and what emotions they are dealing with. I became connected to just about all of the characters.
The story is well written, the descriptions were a bit much in some places, but the pictures that Shamsie is able to paint with words are breathtaking. Her use of reacurring themes makes the story really go full circle. Her ability to take monumental events in history and make them the basis of Hiroko's life, without making the story simply about the history is a feat.
A good read. There were parts that read a little slow, but there weren't many and the story is compelling enough to pull you through them.
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book and once I started, found I couldn't be away from it for too long until it was over. Since the summary of the plot line is already in this product description, I won't waste time on that (and I don't want to give anything away). I was incredibly moved by how far out of a judgmental mindset the author took me. Through her realistic and brutally honest portrayals of the ripple affect human atrocities towards each other cause I was touched in a way no other book about racism, tolerance, and world peace has ever managed to accomplish. There is never a moment of judgement towards one side or another, there is only truth and cold hard historical facts being relayed through the voices of her characters. The only biases are those that would be contained within the points of views of the character speaking. By the last pages, I found tears in my eyes as I found myself searching for a happy ending and confronting the realization that the cold honesty of this book maintains itself to the last word. This is not a book that is intended to be pleasant, or leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. This is a book to make you question what you think you know. This is a book that, for me, inspired a moment of reflection and a deep desire to educate future generations about the consequences even one person can have upon the world. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to educate themselves and look beyond their comfort zone. It has earned a place of respect on my book shelf.
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Picador USA -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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.)
by Maps for Lost Lovers,
"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
by Mohsin Hamid,
"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."
by Salman Rushdie,
"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."
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).
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