Burnt Shadows

Burnt Shadows

Kamila Shamsie , Allen & Unwin

Shamsie builds up tension in an intriguing historical novel of a young Japanese woman in Nagasaki facing impending disaster.
Being aware of what is about to happen creates an atmosphere of expectation and dread. While Hiroko Tanaka carries physical scars with her for the rest of her life, all that remains of the German friend, whom she was about to marry, is a black outline on a rock face where he had been walking.

Her hope of bringing her life together lies in joining her friend’s sister, who is married to an English lawyer in India, prior to the granting of independence from British rule.

The separation of cultures and retention of identity during the British Raj and her marriage to a Muslim, leads into recognition that she will never be really accepted in any culture apart from her very own. Her husband had been treated as “only one rung up from a servant”.

She confesses, “I want the world to stop being such a terrible place.” Her only son is drawn into the battle between the Mujahedeen and the Soviets and is unable to reconnect with his mother when betrayed to the American CIA.

As old wars are usurped by new conflicts there seems no hope as “we make a desolation and call it peace”.

John Atkinson

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