Burnt Shadows

Great book for your book club


Because I am a Japanese woman, I was prepared to be upset with the main character Hiroko being your stereotype Japanese girl because it was written by a Pakistani author. Hiroko was nothing like the girl I imagined, and yet I could see myself in her.

Burnt Shadows reminded me of innocent comments I’ve heard from Americans such as, "It( dropping Atomic Bombs) had to be done to save American lives".

After the Iraq War started, I’ve heard the similar opinions. Burnt Shadows explains the frustration and anger I feel whenever those otherwise very kind and caring people express their deeper belief of their superiority and disregards towards other parts of world. What I really wanted to tell, but was too afraid to open my mouth was, "Iraq didn’t attack USA. Many of the dead are civilians. They were somebody’s mother, daughter, father, sons, grandmothers, grandfathers, and grandchildren. You can’t tell a heart-broken mother, whose child’s head was blown off in front of her, to stop crying and be grateful and happy because US took care of Sadam". 

washingtonpost.com Reviewer Carolyn See wrote, "Her argument is that the British and American empires, through their conscienceless colonialism (and particularly America’s use of the bomb), are responsible for the very troubled world we live in today". But, I don’t think Shamsie was accusing Britain and USA for the world’s every trouble. She just wants them to look into their souls once in a while. At least, that’s how I read.

I wouldn’t say Burnt Shadows is the best novel I’ve ever read. It has some problems such as the color of birds on Kimono and Hiroko’s words in the end. I wish the characters were emotionally more attractive. Having said that, Burnt Shadow is definitely one of the most ambitious and intellectual attempts to make a case for those who never had a chance (maybe too ambitious to be successful). Because of its’ imperfection, I believe it will generate a better discussion. Therefore, I give 5 stars despite the flaw.

It will be a great book for your book club.