When your first book is The Reluctant Fundamentalist the bar is set very high indeed for subsequent books. The temptation is to write the same book again. I have in mind Lee Child, Ian Rankin et al. who write scores of books which are basically an iteration of their first triumph. Anthony Trollope wrote dozens of book but managed to create new settings- politics, the Church, families at war and so on: he reimagined himself. It also helped that his style is timeless.
Hamid writes as if he isn’t a westerner. He has a fluency and sense of time that, I think, is Asian. His story has guile and a finely tuned nuanced approach which is irresistible. He maps out one man’s journey through life. His passion to succeed and how he embraces amoral behaviour as a price to pay in a corrupt, nepotistic, clan based society. In the immortal phrase: He goes with the flow. Hamid’s introduction to reality is his teacher. Not because he is a mentor but because he is utterly incompetent:
Your teacher did not want to be a teacher. He wanted to be a meter reader at the electric utility. Meter readers do not have to put up with children, work comparatively little and what is more important, have greater opportunity for corruption and are hence both better off and held in higher regard by society…So your teacher, who narrowly failed his secondary-school final examination but was able to have the results falsified, and with his false results, a bribe equivalent to sixty percent of one year’s prospective salary… secured only the post he currently occupies. He’s not exactly a man who lives to teach. (p23)
Hamid’s everyman does all that is required of him to get ‘filthy rich’ except he trusts one person who finally betrays him. Regretting nothing he settles into contented life without the accoutrements of wealth and finally meets his one true love.
Why you should buy this book: Hamid is masterly and this is brilliant.
Why you shouldn’t buy this book: Purists might question the bone fides of someone who went to Princeton and Harvard Law School writing about village boys made good.