©2008 Mohammed Hanif; (P)2008 W.F. Howes Ltd.
This book was not quite what I expected--but that turned out to be a very good thing. I'm not usually one for political thrillers, but this one captured me with its undercurrent of humor and it's unique, charmingly human, yet sometimes brutal characters. The point of view shifts between General Zia and a young officr whose general-father had hanged himself--or did he? At times horrific, at other times very funny, this book kept surprising me right up until the end. The reader was perfect as well.
A good story, told in an interesting way. Sometimes I found it difficult to follow the timeline from one chapter to the next. For a debut novel, I would give the story is 3 stars; the narration, 5 stars. For those of us only vaguely familiar with Pakistan and its history, it would be easy to miss the satire. I found it helpful to read a little about the life and death of General Zia and his attempts to introduce Sharia Law into Pakistan. Although the story is fiction, many of the characters in the book are real, including the head of CIA Bill Casey, the American Ambassador Raphel, and the Pakistani officers such as Salik, Akhtar, and finally Zia's successor, Mirza Aslam Beg (wearing sunglasses!) In the backdrop, you have Congressman Wilson and the outrageous journalist and socialite Joanne Herring (of book and movie "Charlie Wilson's War.") I found the Wikipedia a good place to look up all these characters.
This was one of the finest narrations I have heard. The reader does accents and intonations so convincingly that you can't imagine it any other way.
Wonderful interlocking plots
no, but I intend to seek out others
tough question. Baby O, Ali or Bannon
This is one of my all time favorites, and I have listened to thousands of books.
Hanif has caught in a witty and wonderful way the way things work in Pakistan (how do I know? Well, he's caught my stereotypes). Since many of the characters are real (I heard about General Kheanni on TV today, he was a Major in the book) and many of the events are real, the reader can pick up some of the recent political history of Pakistan. And American diplomacy.
I think I would have enjoyed reading the book, but the narrator, Paul Bhattacharjee, is obviously a skilled actor, giving different voices and accents to the various characters, and I was especially captivated by his portrayal of the Americans in the book.
Anyway, at the start of the book I was wondering if we would just get endless amusing description and portrayal of famous Pakistanis and Americans, and if anything would ever happen, but the story picked up speed and I was hooked until the end. I hope Hanif brings us more stories.
"A Case of Exploding Mangoes" is not a literary masterpiece but it would make for a good movie. I especially enjoyed the poignantly satirical "dictatorial" subplot culminated by General Zia's bike trip. The book is well read.
I enjoy reading about events and stories set in the middle east. Thought this would be one of those. Gave it two stars because of the excellent reader. But the foul language and crass references liberally strewn within the story was too much for me. Wish I'd know before I purchased!
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