This is a rather unusual book, but there is much to like, and certainly much to discuss which is no doubt why it is on the VCE text list.
It begins in Lahore, where an American tourist is approached by a native Pakistani, Changez, who claims to be a “lover of America”. He invites the American to tea and proceeds to tell his story, spanning his studies and career in America, his love for an American girl, and how it all came crashing down with her fragile mental state and more importantly 9-11.
The changing attitudes to the Middle East and America’s lack of empathy for beleaguered Pakistan, lead Changez to reject American ideals and return to Pakistan, where he becomes a bit of a radical.
The storytelling device is a little off-putting, the American has no voice whatsoever (although I guess it is about time we stopped hearing the American perspective of 9-11) and we only learn his responses through the commentary of Changez. Most of this involves the American looking somewhat uncomfortable. I found this odd – why sit and have the conversation then? Although perhaps as a female traveller I have a heightened sensitivity to this.
There are a lot of very open factors about the ending – the American is rushed by some Pakistani waiters, but as it is revealed he is carrying a gun we don’t know who exactly is the victim and the perpetrator here.
Mohsin Hamid plays on our prejudices here, constantly putting the reader off balance and wondering what is going on. It is not a comfortable read, but a very worthwhile one.