Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: Maps For Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam

On the jacket:

Set in a nameless British town that its Pakistani-born immigrants have renamed Dasht-e-Tanhaii, the Desert of Solitude, Maps for Lost Lovers is an exploration of cultural tension and religious bigotry played out in the personal breakdown of a single family. As the book begins, Jugnu and Chanda, whose love is both passionate and illicit, have disappeared from their home. Rumours about their disappearance abound, but five months pass before anything certain is known. Finally, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for the murder of their sister and Jugnu. Maps for Lost Lovers traces the year following Jugnu and Chanda’s disappearance. Seen principally through the eyes of Jugnu’s brother Shamas, the cultured, poetic director of the local Community Relations Council and Commission for Racial Equality, and his wife Kaukab, mother of three increasingly estranged children and devout daughter of a Muslim cleric, the event marks the beginning of the unravelling of all that is sacred to them. It fills Shamas’s own house and life with grief and, in exploring the lovers’ disappearance and its aftermath, Nadeem Aslam discloses a legacy of miscomprehension and regret not only for Shamas and Kaukab but for their children and neighbours as well. An intimate portrait of a community searingly damaged by traditions, this is a densely imagined, beautiful and deeply troubling book written in heightened prose saturated with imagery. It casts a deep gaze on themes as timeless as love, nationalism and religion, while meditating on how these forces drive us apart.


In one word, I loved this book. Before I began to read it, I had checked the reviews. Though what I got were mixed views, I wanted to read it. Come to think of it, we read about people and stories of people living across the globe, but how much do we read about plots set in our neighbouring countries.

Personally, reading Maps For Lost Lovers was a emotional experience, and experience involving a lot of imagination. Imagining the plot about people from across the border, at a place we only hear bad things about, but in our hearts we all know, it's the same blood flowing through our veins.

Getting back to Maps For Lost Lovers as a book, is a masterpiece in it's own genre. While reading about the book, I'd read it took more than a decade for Aslam to complete this book. The book is about a Pakistani community set in the midlands of England. The writing is amazing and the story heart-wrenching. It's powerful and it's disturbing. 

As always, I don't want to delve on the plot. It's excellent, which is why I suggest - read it! But mind it, it's a very sad tale. 

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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