Burnt Shaadows | Kamila Shamsie

At the beginning of this year I decided to join a book club. I had always wanted to but whilst I was at university it was difficult because I was constantly backwards  and forwards from one city to the next and was never settled in one place. I went though my local library system and stumbled across Ladies Historical Book and Cake Club. Now, this sounded right up my street, a group of ladies eating cake and talking about historical books, how could I have asked for anything more!? I sent off an email and now me (and my mother) are now members and I absolutely love it! You'll have to bare in mind that I am the youngest member by about fifty years (not including my mum), but they are such a lovely bunch of women and it's so nice to talk to a completely different set of people.

So, why am I telling you all of this, you ask? What I thought might be nice, would be to share the books that I read at book club and write a post once a month giving an overview of each book to sort of set up my own little online book club. I may also include books that I have read rather than just my book club's books because I know not everyone enjoys a historical read as much as me! I know that this may seem slightly random as most of my posts are about beauty products, but books as well as beauty are my passion and I would love to start incorporating them into my little blog.

As I said, I have been a member of this Book Club since the new year so we have read quite few titles so far. I thought I would just start on our most recent book which was Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie:

The Blurb

1945, Nagasaki, Hiroko Tanaka takes in the view of the terraced slopes from her veranda. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes across the back, she is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. In a split second, the world turns white. In the numbing aftermath of a bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost.

Searching for new beginnings, Hiroko travels to Delhi to find Konrad's relatives, and falls in love with their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and all wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts. But the shadows of history - personal, political - are cast over the entwined worlds of the different families as they are transported from Pakistan to New York in the novel's astonishing climax.
My Thoughts
It took me a while to get into this novel but once I'd pushed through the initial barrier I really warmed to the characters and became quite empathetic towards their storylines. It was a strange one for me because it almost felt like there were four different story lines as the book jumps rather large time frames as it is only set in 1945 for a small section of the novel. It them moves on rather quickly and jumps, quite rapidly, to a completely different section of her life. I had originally thought that it was going to be heavily based on the events that occurred in Japan after WWII but it is actually about how that brief time affected Hiroko and the decisions she made on how to live the rest of her life.
It is a very interesting read because it shows a side of events I think a lot of people glaze over. Much of the book is based around the political balance of Pakistan's break away from India and the conflict that occurred between the Muslim faith. Shamsie brings the story line right into the early 2000s which provides an eastern outlook on the attack of the Twin Towers in New York and sensitively shows the prejudice that many people faced.
I would highly recommend this novel as it shows how much war and upheaval and loss, one person and their family can experience in a lifetime. Although fictional, Shamsie is very good at showing how, most probably, a lot of people lived and how they felt at one time or another in these countries over the last 60 years or so. By constantly linking in true events the storyline and characters became
very real and it was so interesting and eye-opening to read so many different points of view.
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?
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