- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing India Private Limited (2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9382951512
- ISBN-13: 978-9382951513
- Product Dimensions: 29 x 20 x 3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
#1,85,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #47055 in Literature & Fiction (Books)
A God in Every Stone (Pakistan) Hardcover – 14 Mar 2014
MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged
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About the Author
Kamila Shamsie is the writer of many bestselling novels, some of which have been nominated for the John Llewellyn Rhys prize. Her books include in The City By the Sea, Salt and Saffron, Kartography and Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows. Burnt Shadows won the Anisfield Wolf Book Award and has been translated in 26 languages. She has been honored with The Prime Ministers Award for Literature by Pakistan and The Guardian First Book Award. She writes a column for The Guardian.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The ending of the book uses a real event when a large Muslim group joined Ghandi's non-violent campaign for independence and were massacred by the British. Our main characters--the older colonized brother who fought in WWI, a younger brother who learned archeology from an English woman, that woman on a return visit, and (new to us) a much younger Muslim girl used to seclusion--all learn, give, and interact in the chaotic streets: a masterful tying together of all our characters. A really brilliant and affecting book.
If you didn’t gather from that, I’m a fan. This has been on my TBR pile since March but I resisted starting it, both because I was being drawn into the new (to me) world of translated fiction and because when I hear that a book is a colonial-era tale about an English woman and a ‘native’ man, my expectations are that I’ve heard that story before. Which just goes to show how foolish it is to judge a book by our pre-conceived assumptions. We’ve heard every story before. What sets ‘A God in Every Stone’ apart is the depth of its characters and the nuances it brings to their loyalties and values. Plus, while it might be about a woman and a man, it isn’t a romance.
The book spans the time between July 1914, just before the outbreak of WWII, and April 1930, and tells the story of an English woman, Vivian Rose Spencer, an archeologist who travels to Peshawar in search of ancient Persian circlet which holds a special meaning for her; Qayyam Gul, a Pashtun soldier in the British army who returns home uncertain about his loyalties; and his younger brother, Najeeb, who is entranced by Vivian Rose’s stories of the Pashtun’s past.
Politically this is the time when India’s independence movement is on the rise, and change is on the horizon, both in England and in Peshawar, with the struggles, heartache and loss which inevitable accompany political upheaval. The strength of the characters in the book comes from their divided loyalties. Vivian Rose is a modern woman with a passion for archeology and an independent bent, but she is opposed to the suffragettes’ cause. Although she doesn’t share the worst of the colonial attitudes towards the Pashtun locals, she isn’t pro-independence, instead believing that the rule of Empire is necessary to modernize and ‘civilise’.
“The rage she felt on behalf of the women of the Peshawar Valley as she sweltered beneath the voluminous burqa dispelled any ambivalence she might have started to feel about Indian demands for self-rule. All these Indians talking about political change when really what this country desperately needed was social change. Why should they be allowed independence when they only wanted it for half of the population?”
Vivian Rose is the most vividly drawn character, but Qayyam and Najeeb have their own internal struggles, and the directions the two brothers take – one towards peaceful resistance, the other drawn to archeology, work well to highlight the difficulties of both sides. Qayyam cannot trust the motives of the English, while Najeeb is enthralled by the glories of the past, and neither can fully understand the other’s positon.
“Of all the fantastic tales you’ve ever told, none is more fantastic than that of the kindly English who dig up our treasures because they want you to know your own history. Your museums are all part of their Civilising Mission, their White Man’s burden, their moral justification for what they have done here.”
At the heart of the story is the Peshawar valley, the beauty of the city and the mountains (‘oh everywhere, the mountains! Dark green, almost black, mountains; blue mountains; rose-coloured mountains; and away in the distance, snow-topped mountains’), and the culture of its people. Nothing is idolized or glorified, and we are left to make our own decisions. Oh, there are holes you can pick in places, but there are always holes you can pick in places. After a few months of reading which has been largely focused on style, it was a refreshing reminder than excellence can also come from great characters and a good plot. For myself, I can’t wait to read another Shamsie.
the second half of the book was not as good as the first half.
Shamsie has succeeded in both the first part of this book and in Home Fires to write a modern tragedy — an incredibly difficult thing to do. By adding the second part of the book, which takes place many years later she diffuses the tragic effect she achieved earlier.