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Words of a Bibliophile

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." —Bee Gees


The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid The titular fundamentalist in this novel is not only reluctant, but also less than convincing. The back cover of my copy described that Changez, the Pakistani main character, "embraced the Western dream — and a Western woman — and... both betrayed him". But I had to scan through the book again to ascertain when and how the betrayals occur because it wasn't immediately clear to me. In the end I still wasn't entirely convinced. Aside from some dirty looks and name-calling he receives post 9/11, Changez doesn't suffer from any direct discrimination or injustice. He doesn't lose his high-paying job until he gives it up himself, and as a Pakistani Muslim he is never subject to unreasonable questioning or raids by US authorities. Changez' self-righteous rage against the West doesn't seem that much different from that of an armchair politician, commenting on world events portrayed on TV from the comfort of his living room. And the so-called romance with the Western woman, Erica, has never been a romance to begin with as she doesn't consider Changez as more than a friend, being unable to move on from her late boyfriend in a Norwegian Wood-esque plot. But while the story falls a little short of believable, I liked the monologue style of this book. The eloquent speech of Changez, the excellent pacing, and just the right amount of details about the person he is speaking to, kept me interested until the end.