‘We are all fundamentalists until we prove otherwise.’ – Mohsin Hamid

 

Brief yet hard-hitting, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is one of the most important books of our time, and was received worldwide to great acclaim. 9/11 spawned a whole array of ‘terrorism literature’, novels trying to deal with the new world occasioned by terrorism, yet few authors manage to convey a sense of these turbulent times as effectively as Hamid. Without melodrama or superfluous sentimentality, Hamid tells two love stories – one between a man and a woman, one between the East and the West – which are tender and deep in equal measure, and yet both ultimately doomed to failure.

The novel is short yet perfectly formed and draws the reader in from the very first, unusual sentences, ‘Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America.’ The unorthodox narration – directed to the reader who becomes part of the story – is experimental yet entirely successful and doesn’t provide distance through its obvious unreality. Rather, reading the book, one feels as though one is in a Lahore café, listening to the narrator’s remarkable story.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is very readable – Hamid captures perfectly the voice of a non-native speaker of English who has spent considerable time in the West, and retains his mix of idiomatic and slightly archaic English throughout. Changez’s narrative voice is delightful to read, and will make you keep turning the pages – it would be entirely possible to read the book in one sitting.

Thrilling and poignant by turns, this is a novel which should be read by everyone, but especially those who have even the slightest interest in the global affairs of today’s world. Not many authors would dare to put into the mouth of their character the words ‘I stared as one – and then the other – of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled’. But Hamid does – testament to his extraordinary power as a novelist. Relations today between East and West have never been more complicated, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist deals with these dark and difficult issues in a straightforward way, bringing clarity and emotion to them and showing what it is like to be ‘on the other side’.

Touching on themes from Mughal architecture to Lahori food, 9/11 to the India-Pakistan conflict, war to the poetry of Pablo Neruda, the world of American business to the world of love and loss, The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a gripping, imaginative read. With a plot that flickers between the hustle and bustle of New York and the slow pace of Lahore at nightfall, it brings to life both worlds in equally vivid measure. You will find yourself disappointed when it ends and keen to read it again – and why not? This is a book which should be read again and again, a classic of our time.

Gripping...taut until the final pages Observer

Sharp, relevant, impressively intelligent Daily Telegraph

A cleverly constructed fable of infatuation and disenchantment Guardian

More reviews online...

The Guardian

The Independent

The New York Times

A selection of reviews on Mohsin Hamid's website