Thursday, April 24, 2008

Trevor's Review of Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a quick, compelling read--I read half of it on the train in one day. This is a fascinating book. Even though on its surface it is about a Pakistani's disillusionment with America after September 11, there is much in here about identity and about relationships, both personal and national.

The protagonist embraced his American life. Educated at Princeton, he began working at a highly respected valuation firm in New York City. He was in love with an American girl. However, when he heard about the attacks on September 11, he surprised himself by smiling. The book is told from as a first-person dramatic monologue. He is sitting at a cafe telling this story throughout a long day. Part of the fun is trying to figure out whom he is telling the story to.

I got annoyed at the narrative device at first. Many dramatic monologues when including responses to the immediate audience flow more smoothly than this. However, in the end, though the dramatic monologue still bothered me a bit, it came off more natural and was powerful. As the tension builds, and the reader is also faced with the perplexities of these complicated relationships.

That said, the book is not quite the caliber I expect from Booker. It was excellent, but it felt like the writer was still getting his feet wet. I know that Hamid is a new novelist, but often first novels up for the Booker are better executed.
4 stars out of 5.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this read as well - it was discussed on one of my book groups and it was a lively discussion...especially regarding the end. Everyone had a different opinion about what was going to happen (I don't want to say more because of spoilers!).