Title : Exit West
Author : Mohsin Hamid
Genre : Literary fiction, Magical realism
Goodreads summary :
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
“In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.”
Right from the first sentence, I was hooked.
Mohsin Hamid’s prose is beyond amazing. It’s beautiful in a very different, subtle form but all the same, it’s beautiful. It isn’t your typical flowery, metaphorical writing – the writing is just different from anything else I’ve ever read. He writes with clarity and just the way his sentences are structured is really a pleasure to read.
When Saeed and Nadia meet, they instantly form a connection – nope, it’s not insta-love – the love eventually develops. As they closer and their relationship develops, war takes over their country and they become desperate to leave and migrate to another place. Just about at that time, word gets around that apparently their are certain doors all over the world which transport you to another different nation. So, they decide to pass through such a door and reach another country.
At its heart, the book is a love story; essentially, it’s a story of people dislocated from their homes. It brings out the truth and the pain of this, the difficulty and the horrors and ramifications of going to a completely different world, and having to adjust with it. It not just gives the perspective of the migrants, but also of the natives and gives you the whole picture.
The magical realism blends in perfectly with the realistic fiction. It made me think of why I don’t read much from this genre, especially when it’s so well done. The concept of the doors transporting people to other countries is very interesting, and it’s not at all complicated or weird or ill-fitting. It just flowed into the story like normal, and the doors very well represent the problems which come with migrating to another country.
Saeed and Nadia’s relationship arc is perfectly written, and so believable and realistic. It isn’t a fairytale love which doesn’t get affected by hardships of the real life. That is one thing I really struggle with in books which idealise romantic relationships, and how nothing changes in the relationship in spite of the couple going through horrors and difficult things. In this book, the reality is portrayed. How something like immigration affects and changes close relationships is very well portrayed. I just loved how Saeed and Nadia’s relationship evolved, it was sad but also satisfactory.
It was a breath of fresh air to read a book with adult protagonists. I feel like I’ve been reading books with young protagonists for a while now, and reading about Saeed and Nadia was interesting and refreshing.
All in all, this book was fantastic. I recommend this to everyone who wants to diversify their reading and read something different. It will cater to all audiences, and I highly recommend you pick this up!
(I haven’t ever rated a book 5 stars on my blog before, 4.75 is as high as I go.)