The experience of Rehana Haque, mother of two, is set against the backdrop of the 1971 Bangladesh war for independence. As a young widowed mother, Rehana loses custody of her children. After she gets them back, she vows never to lose them again. But Rehana cannot insulate her family from the war's impact - her children become involved in the rebellion. The talented Madhur Jaffrey narrates this story evenly and compassionately, drawing listeners into Rehana's life and the complexities of civil war. Creating memorable characters through subtle shifts in tone and accent, Jaffrey gives life to imperious Indian women, humble servants, and fervent college students. Her portrait of Rehana - devoted mother, unlikely heroine - is particularly nuanced and compelling.
But none of the guests at Rehana's party can foresee what will happen in the days and months ahead. For this is 1971 in East Pakistan, a country on the brink of war. And this family's life is about to change forever.
Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, A Golden Age is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith, and unexpected heroism. In the chaos of this era, everyone, from student protesters to the country's leaders, from rickshaw'wallahs to the army's soldiers, must make choices. And as she struggles to keep her family safe, Rehana will be forced to face a heartbreaking dilemma.
©2008 Tahmima Anam; (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers
"An immersive, wrenching narrative." (Publishers Weekly)
I enjoy mysteries, NOT thrillers, contemporary fiction, especially about diverse cultures, and sometimes history, if it doesn't involve too many dates. I often listen to a book multiple times, discovering unnoticed details in the retelling.
Excellent narration! Difficult situations occur throughout this story, but the descriptions are not overly drawn out or exhausting. Throughout the tale one hears understanding, compassion and faith. This is a compelling peak into the turmoil Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have endured in recent times. Wonderful character development.
trying to see the world with my ears
Like "A Thousand Splendid Suns," this is a GOOD novel made more important by the story it tells. From a literary point of view, it's probably a better novel than "Suns", but one point concerns me: I don't think there's a sympathetic portrait of even one minor Pakistani character. In a novel depicting war, no matter how aggressive the opponent nation, I think a detail like that is important to help stop the cycle of dehumanization that allows war.
The novel relates a struggle that was too soon forgotten by the West, even after the flood of publicity that followed George Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh" (the first big "charity/consciousness raising concert) in the aftermath of the environmental and famine crisis that followed the civil war.
We know that the newly independent Bangladesh had victories in terms of human rights and just government, but also setbacks. It remains a story that we ought to know more about, and the author has provided an excellent starting point in an accessible but absorbing novel that manages to communicate the horrors of war without leaving a listener in psychic numbness. She also hints indirectly in the story at some of the causes of the eventual rise of Islamist fundamentalism among some of the population. Outside of the historical context, the novel paints a picture of how "ordinary" folks can rise to heroic action in crisis.
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