Set during a monsoon season in the 1980s in a small town in Pakistan, Season of the Rainbirds is centred on the mysterious reappearance of a sack of letters lost in a train crash nineteen years previously. Could the letters have any bearing on Judge Anwar’s murder? The letters and the judge’s death trigger a series of tragic events and as the murder investigation progresses, dark tales of passion and betrayal unfold and long-buried secrets come to light. The narrative segues between several characters—the judge’s family, a cleric troubled by local inhabitants’ lapses, a Muslim deputy commissioner defiantly involved with a Christian woman, a feudal landlord and a crusading journalist reporting on the delivery of the mail packet—and comes to a head when the journalist disappears and the country lurches between fear and uncertainty following an assassination attempt on the president. One of the most exquisite fictional debuts, Season of the Rainbirds is a compelling portrayal of a society in strife, of a timeless world where daily rituals are played out against an ominous landscape of oppression, decadence, bigotry and power.
A story set in a small town in Pakistan, Season Of The Rainbirds is about this sack of letters which had been lost after a train accident almost two decades ago, but have now reappeared. Characters get spun into the tale and this is how the story unravels.
I had read Aslam's Maps For Lost Lovers before and loved it. This, however, was his first book. The plot is a little thin at places, but it doesn't hamper the reading experience much. The mystery has been woven intelligently and Aslam very easily gets into the characters' skin. What I most enjoy about reading Aslam is, in a way, reading about our own people from across the border. Habits, inherent natures of the characters are all one can identify with, not necessarily at a personal level.
If you have read Aslam's other books before, you might be a tad disappointed because of too high expectations. But remember, this was the first thing he wrote.
[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]