Burnt Shadows - Kamila Shamsie NO SPOILERS

I finished this last night. Three or four stars? Do I REALLY like it or do I like it. While I was reading it, I REALLY liked it, but with time it is the story that will remain not all the wonderful lines that are so intriguing. I think it will turn into an "I liked it" book. You will thoroughly enjoy the time spent with this book if you enjoyed the quotes below. Don't think three stars means, aacch choose something else. I loved it b/c it was thought provoking. The last third of the book goes off in a different tangent. It has a message that is loud and clear. It is not that a disagree with that message, just that I prefer thinking through these things on my own. The end was to blatant for me. I am usually left wondering a bit about what I think. Where do I stand? This author seems to KNOW exactly what she wanted to say. I THINK I do agree with her,...., but I would rather think and mull over an issure than be given a clear answer. So I am giving the book three stars. Sorry if I am unclear. It is the confidence in the author's own beliefs, her need to send a message, that put me off. She knows exactly where she stands. I don't and rarely ever do. Do read the book!

Through page 256:I don't understand how you cannot like this book. Maybe you have to be a little older to have experienced all the different parts of life.

Here follows a quote about family relationships:

"They both knew what it was to be an easily erased entry in the cluttered schedule of a beloved relative." (page 255)

Here follows a quote about aging:

"I wish I were old, Kim thought, watching the two women. Really old. Old enough to have left everything troublesome behind - careers, lovers, regrets, Fathers, Mothers. Were you never old enough for that?" (page 253)

Here follows a quote about your kids:

"To often around her father, she couldn't stop being a teenager either in adulation or sulleness." (page 253)

This book so well describes the difficulties involved in raising kids. Teen and separation difficulties. No matter what you do, your heart is torn, and yet at the same time you love and go on loving.

And that long book description is not what this book is about. It is not a spoiler. It is the second to the last paragraph of the book description that is most relevant.

hrough page 152: I loved chapter 11 – describing sex while the Burtons repeatedly were asking each other where the twoyoung lovers could possibly have gone.

Through page 116 : I particularly like this book for two reasons The first is the strength with which the reader feels for the central characters. Each are very different, and yet you feel you understand each one’s fears and joys. It is the involvement with the characters’ emotional being that is outstanding. I feel I know these people. I feel I can understand why they make the choices they make. I would not necessarily make the same choices but I do understand their choices. More than understanding, I FEEL what has prompted these choices. This is particularly true of Hiroko and Sajjad. Through Hiroko, you learn about the bombing and its aftermath in Nagasaki . Through Elizabeth and James Burton, you learn about the English living in Delhi right before Partition, right before the formation of independent India and East and West Pakistan. Through Sajjad you learn about the people of the Muslim faith living in India before the creation of Pakistan, the conflicts between Sikhs and Hindus and Muslims. It has definitely been helpful to readIndian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, before reading this novel. It helps to know the background of the Muslim League, Jinnah and all the others who helped create Pakistan and India. There are wonderful myths here that add to the historical facts presented in Indian Summer. Muslim reverence for spiders is but one example.

The second strength of the book is the wonderful writing. It isn’t blatant., but instead thought provoking. I often stop and ask myself: could the author be saying this?! I like the ambiguity. I stop and question what I feel about a given topic. In addition there is humor:

(The memory of) the road leading to the street-car, where she’d responded to his gloomy complaints about rationing (with) ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’ …” (page 17)

I started singing when I read that line! Growing love is beautifully described through a little jumping fish:

“Megane-Bashi, or Spectacles Bridge, where they had been standing, looking into the water when a small silver fish leapt out of Konrad’s reflected chest and dived into her reflection and she said, ‘Oh,’ and stepped back, almost loosing her balance, so he had to put his arm around her waist to steady her.” (page17)

Well I love the metaphor! The author mentions here “Spectacles Bridge”, and the reader wonders about the peculiar name.. Later this bridge name IS explained, and it is all the more wonderful b/c you had to wait for the explanation! Read the book, and you will smile too when you draw an image of this bridge in your mind.

What else? I love the philosophical questions. After the horrors of WW2 and the bombing in Japan and the riots and killings in India :

“…if these days teach us anything, it’s that all we can do in preparation for tomorrow is nothing. So let’s talk about today…..” (page 115)

Concerning the bombing in Nagasaki:

“…I still don’t understand. Why did they have to do it? Why a second bomb? Even the first is beyond anything I can… but a second? You do that, and see what you’ve done, and then you do it again. How is that…..?” (page 99)

There are so many sentences I could quote. So many interesting thoughts – how people like constancy, how it feels to settle and never really fit into a new country, the ties of family. I could go on and on.

This book is so much more than how the plot develops from point A to Z……