My love for Kamila Shamsie’s writing began with ‘Kartography‘, grew with ‘Salt and Saffron‘, deepened with ‘Burnt Shadows’ and has now been permanently etched into my heart with ‘Broken Verses‘. I now have just one more novel that she has penned to savour, ironically the first book she wrote – ‘In the City by the Sea‘ & I am going to wait till I read it because once I’m done with that I have nothing that she has written to look forward to.
As you can tell, I think she is a fantastic writer. I am such a fan girl that last year I went to hear her read ‘Burnt Shadows‘ at the Harbourfront centre here in Toronto. I couldn’t believe how young she is! She looks like a little bachhi. And she’s a full 4 years older than I am. She seemed nervous, as she read the chapter from the fish market scene & really had no reason to be – she’s so good at her craft. Alright, I’ll stop gushing now & get on with reviewing ‘Broken Verses‘
Like all her other books, that I’ve read, the protagonist of ‘Broken Verses‘ is a woman. Aasmani Inqalab (Celestial Revolution!) is the daughter of activist Samina Akram, who disappeared when Aasmani was 17. Her disappearance follows the brutal murder of her mother’s lover, known through most of the book as, simply, ‘The Poet’.
Aasmani has never been able to accept that the disappearance of her mother means that she is dead & when one day she is given a letter written in code that only The Poet, her mother & she knew – she is convinced that there is a conspiracy and begins to try to unravel the mystery of The Poets murder and her mother’s disappearance.
Kamila Shamsie, has written a page turner that reads like a thriller and also a lyrical, poetic, heart warming novel. How does she do it?!
Through Aasmani’s journey, we learn about Karachi, her unique family & how so many of our perceptions, of what the country to our West is like, are grossly incorrect. As the book neared the end, I was torn between wanting to know what the truth about Samina & The Poet was and not wanting the book to end. That’s how beautiful her writing is.
The only criticism, if you can call it that, is that her protagonists – whether it’s Aasmani from ‘Broken Verses‘ or Raheen from ‘Kartography‘ or Aliya from ‘Salt and Saffron‘ – are very alike. I believe, Hiroko from ‘Burnt Shadows‘ has a more distinct voice, because her character is Japanese & not Pakistani. That said, it does not take away from any of the books.
Just in case you’re wondering – there is a gay character in the book & that’s why it’s featured here. (Truth be told, I would have found a way to put her book up here, even if there was no gay character!)