Friday, June 15, 2007

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

# Hardcover: 288 pages

# Publisher: John Murray UK (8 Mar 2007)

# Genre : Historical Fiction

# Author's Website

#BBC Timeline: Bangladesh

Dear Husband,
I lost our children today.

This evocative opening line is from a book by a young author of Bangladeshi descent, Tahmima Anam, and it is set in Bangladesh against the backdrop of Bangladesh's fight for Independence from Pakistan in 1971, a war in which Nixon, the then President of America supported Pakistan and where India supported the breakaway Bangladesh.

To fully appreciate the novel, here's a little historical background:
When the British left India in 1947, they divided India into two states, India and Pakistan. Unfortunately for Pakistan, 1,500 miles separated West Pakistan from its Eastern Provinces"on either side of India like a pair of horns" and the eastern provinces became known as Bangladesh in 1971 after it secured its Independence from Pakistan in a bloody battle.

When I first heard about this book on BBC's Radio 4 I did a little jig around the room because, it is not often a Bangladeshi writer is propelled to international fame...the last author to have appeared on the bestseller's list was Monica Ali for "Brick Lane", but whereas "Brick Lane" was essentially an immigrant story, "A Golden Age" explores how the fight for independence affected the lives of normal people living in Bangladesh or East Pakistan as it was called then, their trials, their tribulations and most of all, the sacrifices they had to make in order for their country to be free from Pakistan.

The story centers around one family, the Haques, with smaller stories of the other people who happened to interact with them. Rehana Haque is a plucky, single mother bringing up two teenage children, 19 year old Sohail and 18 year-old Maya. When war breaks out, Sohail and Maya like many young, idealist students of that time, join the Guerilla independence movement and become freedom fighters. Rehana, knowing that she has to make her own contribution, offers her guest house to the Movement. This move on Rehana's part is the ultimate sacrifice because she originally hails from Karachi in West Pakistan. The book follows the lives of these three main characters closely, giving the reader a fictionalized account of what people living through the war might have gone through.

The author who is too young to have her own memories of the war has based her story on what her grandparents and parents told her, creating a wonderful and fairly authentic tale of her nation's birth. The other reason I did a little jig around the room when I heard about this book is because of its subject matter....I was a young girl in Bombay when Bangladesh requested India's help in their fight for independence and I remember so clearly, Pakistan retaliating by dropping bombs on India. Every night, volunteers would walk past our apartment block shouting "lights out, lights out" and my father would stick "black out" paper onto all the windows of the house and shut them tight. Curious little kids that we were, we would run onto the balcony to observe the "fireworks"...little did we know they were bombs in the distance. If any of you have any recollections of the 1971 war Indo-Pak war, do please share.

I consider "A Golden Age" a hugely important book, because, as far as I know, this is the first time the events of 1971 have been set forth in a novel in English and published by an International publishing house. "A Golden Age" has echoes of Shawna Singh Baldwin's "What the Body Remembers" and Chimananda Adichie's "Half of A Yellow Sun", Tahmima Anam is a truly talented writer
. Although Anam traces the Bangladesh war, its losses, tragedies, displacement, sacrifices, sorrows etc. she does so in a way that doesn't overwhelm the reader and for that I am grateful, also, this book, while it may be about the war is also a book about a mother's love for her family and the extent she is willing to go to to keep her family intact.

Though the events of 1971 Bangladesh are half a world and 40 years away, they still have much to teach us and we have so much to learn. Tahmima Anam has written a book every Bangladeshi or indeed every person interested in in this tragic event can be proud of.

If you can, do take a listen to Joan Baez's song about this war. It is called, "Song For Bangladesh" and can be found on YOU TUBE. It made my hair stand on end. Also, George Harrison's "Concert For Bangladesh" is a must-visit!

First Memory:

Radha has tagged me for an earliest memory recall. I have so many memories it is hard to pinpoint what might have been the first one.

It may have been:

a. my grandparents coming to visit us every evening with cookies for us children...

b. or the half-naked beggar-lady that came to our apartment block everyday around lunchtime crying out for something to eat...

c. Oh wait, it could have been me dancing and clapping to my father's cherished LP of the Beatles song, "Oh blah di-oh blah da!"

I am afraid I am totally unable to tell you which one is my earliest memory. Here's hoping Sanjay, Beenzzz, Olivia and anyone else that might like to play fare better than I did!

And finally, here's a fun thing I picked up from Myutopia's blog:

Click here to try it for yourself, it's the Flickr Word Game



J.S. Peyton said...

This too sounds an intriguing read but I must confess that I'm a little wary because I read Brick Lane a few years ago and didn't enjoy it very much. Something about the writer's style bothered me. But I'll put this on my library list and take a chance. And I must say I think the cover is beautiful.

Asha said...

You look cozy there.Open field,little sunshine and a great book! WOO HOO!!!
I have that "Brick lane" and this book I must get.I like when they write about history.
US always supported Pakistan until the boss man tasted our Mangoes recently!!;D

Lotus Reads said...

@JS Peyton ~ Hello and welcome! About "Brick Lane", I know exactly what you mean, I had a similar reaction when I read it. The only similarity between the two writers, Anam and Ali, is that they are both Bangladeshi writers now living in England, their writing styles are quite different. I so hope you enjoy the read and thank you for the lovely visit! Yes, and the cover is stunning!

@Asha ~ Some sun, a little lawn and a book, isn't that all you need for a lovely afternoon, wait, I forgot the iced lemonade! :) Musharraf has the most amazing PR, as much as I dislike him, I cannot help but admire how he gets people eating out of his hands.

Bookfool said...

Okay, I'll have to get my hands on this one! I feel like we're so sheltered and ignorant about the history of other countries in the U.S. - even recent history. Hubby and I had an interesting debate about whether or not fiction has a place in the learning of history, just yesterday. I said, "Yes," and he disagreed. I think you've just supported my argument. :)

BTW, I need your address to send The God of Animals - if you wrote to me, I didn't receive an email. My email (without the spaces):

nancytoes @ bellsouth dot net

Bookfool said...

Oh, yes, forgot to say I love that photo! The cover is gorgeous and it's adorable the way you're peeking over the top of the book. :)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Nancy!!!

Not sure this book is out in the US yet, but I know it's available on

You raised a very interesting point about historical fiction having its place in history...I think it does. Historians are limited in that they need to lay out the bare facts, but a fiction writer can take those facts and with a few creative liberties literally makes the past come alive for the reader.

Then there are other equally fascinating genres like creative non-fiction, narrative non-fiction, literary non-fiction...I was never sure how creative non-fiction works, because doesn't it suggest one takes liberties with the facts? lol

So glad you liked the pic, thought I'd do something different for a change! :)

Booklogged said...

Love the picture of you just peeping over the top of the book.

While reading your review and listening to the songs I was thinking about what I was doing in 1971 - going to college, without a thought in my head about other countries and what was happening to their people. A typical selfish American.

I think this is a book I'm going to have to read. Thanks for the great review, Lotus.

Lotus Reads said...

Sweet booklogged,

I am very touched you took the time to listen to the songs, the Joan Baez brought tears to my eyes I was so moved by it.

I'm so glad you liked the review...the subject matter is very close to my heart.

When do I see you in Canada, booklogged?

Tara said...

What a wonderful review! I'll have to look out for US publication of this. I agree with Nancy, it does seem we Americans are least in touch with world history and I'm not sure why. Looking back, we focused on (our own) state's history and US history primarily. I cannot even think of a world history class in my schooling. I would like my daughter to have a broader world view.

MyUtopia said...

Sounds interesting.

Sanjay said...

Lotus, Once again another great post and book review, and thank you for tagging me. Those were nice childhood memories! I will have to dive in to my memory banks to find some of mine.
I will do it as soon as I can.

The flickr word game.. pretty nice.

I loved your picture, the cover of the book, and the review. This is a book I would love to read. I do have a few questions and observations.

Why is the book called “A golden age”? That period of tremendous tumult that led to the birth of Bangladesh, is that what she is referring to? Or is she referring to something else. Just curious.

I have watched with increasing concern as Bangladesh has gone through increasing Islamic radicalization. I was listening to NPR a couple of days ago and they were discussing the battle between Lebanese security forces and the Islamic radicals in the Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli. They have foreign fighters there and one of the countries that was mentioned as their source was Bangladesh. And remember Tasleema Nasreen and the fatwa against her?

I guess my question about a golden age may have to be viewed against this backdrop.

My other observation is about the use of fiction as a way to learn about history. I have mixed feelings about its use. I recall reading about the war and the events that led up to it years ago in a series of articles in the now defunct Illustrated Weekly of India. To me they were very well written and brought home to me the tragedy, the brutality, the killing and rape that were all used to terrorize the ppl of then East Pakistan. A very factual account, it made a deep impression on me and has stayed with me years later.
Perhaps fiction has a role here in that it used the creation of Bangladesh as a crucible to tell a story that is very human. You also made a very convincing argument in its favor in your response to Nancy.

I do agree that the book is important in how it uses the war as a basis for a piece of work that is published worldwide now.

The links to Baez and Harrison were moving

War time memories.. They are similar to yours, except that we live in Sion and we could see Antop Hill and just behind those were the docks with their oil storage facilities. The night time sky would be filled with tracers and of course we were fascinated. Mom tried to keep me away from the windows, she was being overly protective me thinks. :)

The other memory is a neighbor’s son coming back with an empty bomb casing that had been dropped by the Pakistanis (he claimed), that did not explode and was disarmed and the explosives removed. He knew people and was able to bring it home as a souvenir. You can imagine how much he enjoyed showing it off.

The last one memory is not mine, but A’s uncle was a fighter pilot in the IAF and was shot down over Pakistan, he was taken as a POW and was then released shortly after the war. They Pakistanis treated him ok but they did beat him up and he lost a couple of teeth.

Once again thank you for telling us about this book and an excellent post.

Laura said...

Thank you for this review Lotus!!!! This book sounds like a must read...Remember when we took our little drive in Chicago and we were listening to the Ravi Shankar portion of Concert for Bangladesh????

I am thinking of you living through black out times and shuddering...because I think of you in that time and maybe in danger...that is scary....

Your blog just makes me so happy due to its warmth and intellect!!!

Laura said...

I just checked Amazon U.S. and Amazon Canada and can't find the book....Would I have to order it from England?

ulysses said...

Nice review - captures the essence without giving it away. I too agree it is an important book.

Tahmima was not born in 1971. But her father and her uncle were Freedom Fighters in that war, and she grew up hearing about it. That may be the reason why she is able to detach herself just enough to make it accessible, yet keep it interesting.

She writes very well. Hope to see lots more from her.

Lotus Reads said...

@Tara ~ Thank you! You're so right to want your daughter to know all about the history of other nations, we are slowly becoming one big global village and it's important we know what shaped us as countries. I hope the US publication isn't too long in the making. Glad for your visit, thank you!

Myutopia ~ it is!

Lotus Reads said...

@Laura ~ You sweet thing, thank you! And, yes, when I saw the website for "Concert For Bangladesh" I thought of you and how we listened to it in the car!!! I wanted to mention that in the post but it slipped my mind. I listened to some more of the clips online and I came close to crying, it is ever so moving!

Nat (tanabata) told me about and through, I discovered that their price on the Anam book was the cheapest so I ordered my copy from them. Best of all, they don't charge for shipping!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sanjay!

I will let the photographer (my darling 12-year old) know that you liked the pic.

Thanks for accepting the tag, I know you will do a great job of showcasing your earliest memory, I found it really hard to do and as a result it came out sounding rather uninspired!

Why was the novel called "A Golden Age"? Good question and I remember reading the author talking about it in an interview somewhere, but I don't remember what she said!?! Typical of me! However, if I were to guess, I would say although it was time of such terrible turmoil, it was also a time of great hope and people were expecting great and wonderful changes for their country. From the observations you have made, I don't think of it as a Golden Age either.

Historical fiction is a very important genre in my opinion, I think in part because it prompts readers to want to know more about the historical events that have shaped our world. For instance, I might not have been prompted to read about the Biafran War had it not been for Chimananda Adichie's excellent book "Half of a Yellow Sun" where I saw the effects of the war through the perspectives of her all-too-human protagonists.

I remember the Illustrated Weekly all too well. That was an excellent magazine, whatever happened to it? I remember, the first thing I did when I received a new issue was to look for Laxman's cartoon! I wonder if they have archived some of their articles on the internet somewhere?

Thank you for sharing your war time, a bomb casing, that is some souvenir to possess! *A*'s uncle must have a wealth of memories about the war...was he alright after he was released? Hope he didn't suffer too badly from post-traumatic stress?

Enjoyed your visit, thank you very much for your insights and observations, Sanjay.

Sanjay said...

@Lotus, Thank you for your response! That 12 year old has quite the talent!!

I am now really curious about why Tahmima called her book that. I should go listen to the BBC4 adaptation perhaps, or maybe I may be brave enough to ask her in an e-mail, but I would rather do it once I have read the book?

Your point about the role of fiction in getting people to learn more about history is well taken. Hey anything that gets people reading more books and then talk about them is good no?

The illustrated weekly has unfortunately been defunct for a while. I used to enjoy reading Khushwant Singh in it (I believe he edited it for a while, but I could be wrong). I also remember their issue from 1976 that celebrated 200 years of the independence of the US. They also used to have features about foreign lands, cultures including films which for me was so fascinating, given that the regional newspaper we had just sucked,and there was no TV at our place. I will look up the web to see if they have anything archived from the weekly.

Thank you for asking about *A*'s uncle. Yes he is fine,no PTSD, he did not bear any ill will against his captors, and except for losing his teeth he was fine. He even made it on the cover of some magazine then for her was one of the first POWs to be release/exchanged after the war. There was a picture of him with his brother and their father meeting him after his release.

I always enjoy my visits here, I can't quite shut up, sorry about the long comment. :)

Id it is said...

Thanks for the heads up, but why does that story line seems familiar?! I couldn't have read the novel since it's been released only recently, but after reading the storyline on your post, I am positive that I've read that one before, and the fact that I can't remember where/ what novel/ maybe a short story is bothering me no end. I wonder if anyone visiting your blog can help...

Lotus Reads said...

@Ulysses ~ You make a good point about her detachment assisting her to tell the story with more objectivity than someone that may have actually witnessed the war. I read that she is working on two other books, a prequel and a sequel...needless to say, I want to read both!

Thanks for the visit!

@Id ~ You know, I think you might have read the opening chapters of this novel in the "Granta"...I believe they had an issue on "Wars" a few months ago and Anam's story was called the "Courthouse Wars" or something similar. Unfortunately, they (Granta) haven't archived it online so I can't be absolutely sure. Thank you for visiting!

Lotus Reads said...

@Sanjay ~ You know, I think you should e-mail Anam and ask've got me curious too! lol

*A*'s uncle could actually write a book on his years in the army and then his experience as a POW...I don't know of too many books written by Indian POW's.

Again, thank you so much for stopping by!

Radha said...

Lotus, great review as always. And thx for doing the tag :)

Beenzzz said...

Thanks for the tag. This is a cool meme! I look forward to doing this!
A Golden Age, sounds like a a wonderful read. We skimmed through the Bangladesh war for independence so many times in class. I must get a copy of this book soon. I would love to have a deeper understanding of their plight. Wonderful review as always. :)

Nyssaneala said...

Great review! This sounds like a definite must-read. My TBR list is really expanding today as I catch up with a lot of fellow bloggers posts.

diyadear said...

war time stories always intrigued me.. will try to get hold of this book..

Traveller said...

Beautiful book cover and intriguing opening line. Sounds like a read to put you through the wringer!

Framed said...

This book cover is fantastic and so is your review. I just finished a book about Afghanistan and I find there is so much about that part of the world and its history that I know so little about. This book should help enlighten me.

Beaman said...

Good review, it's attracted my interest in the book.

Susan in Italy said...

Great post, Lotus. Fiction is an absolutely valid tool for learning history (of course in combination with non-fiction.) I learned and retained info about the day-to-day difficulties in this war from Rohinton Misrty as he described one family's life in their blacked-out apartment. The claustrophobia, heat and darkness being only a tiny fraction of the total suffering in that war. I've thought about that family and "what they went through" (as fictional characters) a lot since. Fiction can humanize history.

ML said...

Lotus, great review and it sounds like an intense book. I'll be adding this on my HUGE list of books to be read.

I like your picture on your blog :) You're lovely!

Matt said...

Great photo you've included with this post. I've been meaning to do a photo like this for my blog but haven't taken the time to do it. Anyway, nice work.

J at said...

What a wonderful book review! Your telling of it DID sound a lot like "Half of a Yellow Sun", with the 3 characters, the war that we haven't heard about before, etc.

Being a 5 year old in Alaska at the time, I was pretty much clueless...but I do remember the concert for Bangladesh. In my ignorance, I kinda assumed it was because of an earthquake or something. I do remember reading about the war later, though, in college.

Lotus Reads said...

@Radha ~ Thank you for tagging me!

@Beenzzz~ You did a really great job on the meme, thanks so much! You know, I can't remember if we studied the Bangladesh War of Independence in class or memories come from my parents talking about it and the odd newspaper article here and there. This is a beautiful read, one of those books you might want to add to your permenant collection!

@Nyssaneala ~ Welcome back! Hope you were able to do a lot of reading on your beach vacation?

@Diya ~ Don't think it's available here (the US/Canada) as yet, but it shouldn't take long. And, you enquired about the picture? It's me! :)

@Traveller ~ Hello! I read it whilst listening to Joan Baez sing "Song For Bangladesh" so it really,really got my tear ducts working overtime

@Framed ~ I would be interested in knowing the title of your book....going to visit you soon. Thanks so much for stopping by.

@Beaman ~ Welcome and thank you for stopping by to let me know!

Booklogged said...

Helllo, Lotus. I just sent you an email. I don't know if I have the correct address because I sent you one earlier in June, but I don't think you received it. Let me know if you don't get it, okay?

Happy Reader said...

Wonderful review, Lotus. I know very little about the Bangladesh war and this book should enlighten me. Thanks for sharing the "Song for Bangladesh". I was on the verge of tears by the time the song ended. I loved the tune, but I don't think I can watch it more than once. The video clip was too depressing.

Priya said...

this also sounds like an interesting read... i cannot wait to get my hands on it. wow, you grew up in bombay...thats great stuff.

Lotus Reads said...

@Susan ~ you make the case for historical fiction so well, fiction does humanize history! Yes, I think I know the Mistry book that you speak of, it's called "Such a Long Journey", I haven't read it yet, but I know I want to! Speaking of Mistry, he hasn't written a book in ages...wish he was more prolific!

@ml ~ *blush* Thank you, that is so nice of you to say!

@Matt ~ Thank you! My 12-year old wanted to do something different for the post, so I let her, I'm glad I did! I can't wait to see what you do with your next post, your blog is fantastic-looking btw!

@J ~ Don't blame you for thinking the Concert For Bangladesh might have to do with a natural disaster, god knows, Bangladesh has had enough of this was a concert hastily put together by George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan etc to raise money for the refugees from this war. They have recently re-released it and I had the good fortune to listen to the CD in Laura's car (Maude and Mozart) when I visited Chicago in April!

@booklogged ~ I got your e-mail and responded to it, but apparently it is my response that went astray. I wrote you another one this morning, please let me know when you get it. Thanks!

@Chitts ~ Yes, the video is very depressing...I feel sorry I put you through that. I cry everytime I listen to the song, it's heart wrenching!

@Priya ~ Did you grow up in Bombay too?

hellomelissa said...

lovely book cover... lovely lady behind it... wonderful review, especially as it was heartfelt.

i think my earliest memory is not getting out of the car after a vacation we took when i was 4 or so. they let me stay in there for hours.

Lotus Reads said...

@Melissa ~ Hey, thank you for the nice words, thank you also for sharing your first memory with us!


Anonymous said...

Hey, I recently added a news widget from to my blog. It shows the latest news, and just took a copy and paste to implement. Might interest you too.

Sharif said...

Just found your blog from google, adding it to my rss reader. I just finished reading A Golden Age. My review is in my . It was a nice read, enjoyed it.

Hollydolly said...

Lovely review as usual Anjali, this is a must read for me. I could not find it on the links you mentioned. Was it
I also listened to Joan Baez. Incredible.
Loved the picture of the book.


Olivia said...

Thank you for tagging me :)

And thank you for getting that Beatles song stuck in my head - my second in two days.

Beloved Dreamer said...

Sweet Lotus, great post as usual. This sounds like a book for me. I am sorry I have not responded sooner and more often but I have been busy. We are redoing my bed room. AT LAST!!
I am taking your advice and answering comments about my poems on my blog. I must ask though. Did you play the video as you read "Just One More Chance" ? It makes more sense that way.
S. McLochlan's Angel is so beautiful that it sparked an idea for a poem. I'm glad you liked it.


Cereal Girl said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog. Looks like I have a lot of reading to do, just to catch up with what you've been doing. Just got back in town after two trips so it's good to get back to my usual past times -- like reading

Lotus Reads said...

@Sharif ~ Thank you for letting me know about your blog...I'm always delighted to meet other book bloggers! Your take is a little different from mine, isn't it just fascinating how we each take away different things from the same book? Again, thank you for pointing me to your review. I will visit again for sure.

@HollyDolly ~ So lovely to see you here! Since this book is not available in North America yet, you might want to go to (UK books) and do a price comparison, I think you will find the BookDepository with the best rate, also, they ship it to you free of charge!

@Olivia ~ Hey, no problem! And sorry about the Beatles song, I know how problematic it can be to have a tune stuck in one's head! :)

@Beloved ~ No I didn't watch the video're doing up your room, yeay, you must post pictures when it's done!

@Cereal Girl ~ I hadn't heard from you in a while, so you had me wondering where you had gone to, nice to know they were wonderful places like Paris, the Carolinas etc. :)

Hollydolly said...

Hey There
I went to Book Depository and ordered the book right away yesterday. Nice about no shipping charges. Really excited to receive this.


Anonymous said...

Tahmima Anams book has re-opened old wounds which best lay dormant.
my family and I were the recipiments of a reign of terror from march 3 to March 25 perpetrated
by Bengali nationalists on the urdu-speaking and non-bengali settlersin east Pakistan. Rape, murder,extortion you name it --they did it all. The pakistan army acted to restore law and was the intervention ofIndia backed ny the then Soviet Union that created Bangladesh, The so-called freedom -fighters created but a small dent to the Pakistan army.Anams book is one-sided and does not give an accurate picture of what really happened in 1971.

sage said...

this book sounds interesting, I remember the war--I was in Junior High--I've been reading lots of the subcontinent in hopes of traveling there next year. Thanks for the review--what would your response be to the anonymous comment above?

Lotus Reads said...

Hello, Anon

Thank you for writing in. I am so sorry for what you and your family have suffered and yes, I am sure there were atrocities committed on the non-Bengali, Urdu-speaking people, especially towards the end when the state of Bangladesh came into being . Tahmima Anam wrote this bit of historical fiction based on what her grandparents and parents narrated to her, so yes, it would be from a Bengali standpoint. I would be very interested in knowing if you could recommend a couple of books that address what the non-Bengali people went through and I would be happy to highlight those books on my blog (after reading them ofcourse).

Again, thank you for writing in.

@Sage ~ Thank you for the visit! When next year are you planning to travel? We are also planning a visit to India next summer...I have family there. Would love to know some of the titles of the books you've been reading to prepare for your trip there.

sage said...

It will be late winter, I hope (I'm not up for 45 C weather). I've read "Freedom at Midnight," "Death of Vishnu", "Holy Cow," "Eat,Pray and Love" I've also watched a number of Indian films, I love "Earth" and "Water" and am planning on reading "Cracking India"

Lotus Reads said...

I want to read "Cracking India" too! Bapsi Sidhwa is an awesome writer...have you read her novel "Water" based on Deepa Mehta's movie of the same name? "Earth" is a wonderful movie, I want it for my permenant collection. "Holy Cow" is a fun, irreverent take on India and Indians, it didn't go down so well in India but I loved it!

Nabeel said...

what a great cover. From a design perspective it's brilliant. Bangladesh today happens to be the 8th most corrupt country in the world (out of 10)

diyadear said...

lotus, thats a pic of u??? wow ur so pretty.. dont at all look like the mom of a 16 yr old. woodtouch :)

Rachel said...

I like your photo,it seems like a very intriguing book! hey, thanks for the flicker link here, will use it=)

rai said...

I like Tahmima Anam and her writings.. But i think she is wasting her potential. She will be mire effective by contributing not by whinning.. Yes with this prcatice of critisizing she may get short term popularity like Taslima Nasrin. But at the end she will be scrapped to dustbin. I hope she will start contributing like Dr. Yunus.. she has this oppertunity, scope and potential.

bokpakhi said...

I finished reading the book in two days. The book is beautifully written and made me aware of the fact thay one can learn about one's past history through fiction. I think this book has been a gift from Anam to the younger generation of all Bangladeshis living in Bangladesh and abroad. My children who are growing up as US citizens can now read this book and learn about the history of Bangladesh and the brutalities of the Pakistani government. This is a great read and I am waiting for other books of Anam to come out. I recommend this book strongly.

Anonymous said...


I just had tea at my rich friends house in the posh Dhanmondi area of Dhaka and we mildly talked about how bad things were in 1971 in Dhaka,Bangladesh.

That is the taste I have in my mouth after reading this "Historical" novel.

Prelude: I barely survived the heinous Bangladesh Genocide of 1971. My Uncle and Grandfather were mercilessly butchered via bayonets to their guts and their dismembered bodies thrown into the river never to be found again. As an American Bangladeshi, I pre-ordered this book, rather with high anticipation. In all my eagerness, I wanted this to do justice to the rape and murder and mayhem that I was lucky to live through.
The anticipation was that it would be at least of the caliber of Monica Ali's (talented Bangladeshi author) wonderful book "Brick Lane", especially after the reviews I had read.

This is a very lucrative idea but completely misses giving the essence of WAR! WAR is bloody hell, and not "GOLDEN", even if the house that the book is set in is sonar (golden.)

This book keeps on whimpering out. After reading the book and listening to the audio, I was of the opinion (especially with Madhur Jaffrey's narrating) that I had heard a book on current Paki flavored Bangladeshi cooking with war thrown in for good measure.
If this book is to portray the world of genocide, it does not. And it does not because it cannot break out of this Dhanmondi scene aura even with this stretched scene in Augortola, India thrown in.
The flavor of 71 was in the countryside, it was in lakes and rivers around Dhaka with bloated dead Bangladeshi bodies that looked like balloons someone had blown up with crows and vultures sitting on them and ripping out stinking rotting carrion.
For selecting a subject that no one in the English language has written a historical novel, bravo!
Five Starts for cover design!
Five stars for publicity and press.
FIVE STARS for a historical novel that no one has yet written in English language.
This is like kicking home a goal in an empty field.

Am I drinking whiskey in today's corrupt world of Dhanmondi, Bangladesh talking about how things were in 1971 or am I reading about three million people killed and 200,000 women raped?
All of these are discussed and yes that's exactly where it fails.
While the effort is there, the effect is not. Why NOT?
In the twenty pages or so of the short story "When Mr. Pirzada Came To Dine" Jhumpha Lahiri captures the tenseness of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 71 better than this does in 265 pages. We constantly are not getting into these "Amoo" and sweet dishes. Call death death, call hell hell. Don't pour sweet gravy on it in a lucrative manner.
I felt after reading this book, that I was sitting in an overstuffed couch in Dhanmondi, Dhaka at a overstuffed and fat and filty rich family's dining room listening to how to cook parata's with eggs in the middle. A third of the book is about various current Banglaeshi dishes. GIVE ME A BREAK!

I must confess that I am an avid fan of Monica Ali, Kiran Desai, Jhumpha Lahiri and V.S. Naipaul in the Indian Genre. So my expectations are above average. Hats off to Monica Ali for "Brick Lane", in my humble opinion still the best English Novel by far of any Bangladeshi.
And what's this with the cliche's Just how exactly does "the smell of rust" smell?

I realize the author was born after 71 and did not spend time in Bangladesh. I was born and brought up in the Dhanmondi area and lived through this bloody hell of nine months that I will never forget as the most horrific experience of my life.

But since it is touted as a historical novel, and rather front loaded with Harvard all over it, sorry to say it is not of that caliber. ( I grew up around Harvard yard.) And maybe the English MFA should have come first, not last. There are just too many heinous errors in wielding the words of English and the book is verbose to a greater extent. Less is best.
I applaud the effort. I cannot in good faith applaud the result.

Anonymous said...

The reason for this critique is the claim by the Author, Tahmima Anam, in her interviews ( and that this is a historical novel based on the Bangladesh Genocide of 71.
When you say that, then people who were there need to respond. So, here's my response:
I give "Golden Age" five stars for cover design, marketing and sales events.
This book is GOLD for Harper Collins and Tahmima Anam.

I give it one star however, as far as portraying the feel of Genocide.

How true and golden is it for the true Tale of Bangldesh Genocide?
Who am I to say this?
I am an American Bangladeshi born in
grew up in DKAHA UNIVERSITY where my father worked for over fourty years!!!!
I have a BIG problem with the aftermath of what happened on March 27th morning after the Curfew was lifted. My father and mother (pregnant in 71) were trapped in Dhaka Univeristy and Allah help us all, survived because they hid in Building 27 where the Pakistan Army did not find them.
After the massacre of students in Iqbal Hall and adjoining halls, after the burning of NilKhet Bosti (slum), when the curfew was lifted, when my parents and siblings could they climbed over the back of the wall and escaped by walking out of Dhaka University. NOT EVEN ONE RICKSHAW was available, not even one bus, not even one car!

To think that Maya, the heroine's daughter, on the 27th of March, 1971, a pampered "Amoo" Kid of the Dhanmondi crowd would or could find a Rickshaw to go and visit Dhaka University is an insult on the face of the dead souls of Faculty and Students who never escaped death at Dhaka University on March 25 and 26.
It was sheer chaos of exodus on March 27, 1971 there. And it does not portray the atmosphere of Dhaka University, where I was born, brought up, know a dozen intellectual familes whose members were killed.



Small note, that at the school that Maya goes to Catholic “Sisters” were the name they were called, not “NUNs!” This could go on, but one has to stop.

The exodus out of Dhaka on March 27th, 1971 was by foot, private cars and foot! What rickshaws! Are you crazy!!!
Even private cars were checked at checkpoints, and people shot at these checkpoints because of any small reason.

Tahmima Anam, in her audacity, talks in a manner of being the voice of Bangladeshis, particulary about her writing an epic novel that turned out to be this.
I as an American Bangladeshi Woman have to say this, that I find this posturing, highly suspect.
She talks the talks, but does not walk the walk.
Also, I note that no one in Bangladesh really knows about the book.
Other notes about Bangldeshi life:
Mother - Ma --- 95% of people of Bangladesh say use this
Father - Baba --- same
In her book the overuse of "Amoo" (term for mother by over pampered rich kids of Dhanmondi and Gulshan) right off the bat left a bad taste in my mouth. I have to tell you this, in 1971, the Mukthi Bahini, the three million people who died and the 250,000 Birangana's (term for horribly raped Bangladeshi woman), I doubt very few every called their mother "Amoo!"

I notice that all the rave reviews are from non-Bangladeshis mostly.
This book is “Golden" for Harper Collins. It is golden, I guess for the author, but if translated to Bengali, too many people would find too many flaws.

In an empty field I hear someone saying
but there are no players, no goalkeeper. No other English Novels have been published on this horrible Genocide.

This Novel does not remind me or give me the feel of the nine months of 71. I would not be so upset, but that this Novel constantly waters in two many ways very horrible days.

Beautiful cover, beautful intro, but history is left out.
By the way Nixon and Kissinger sent arms to Pakistan to kill Bangladeshi's (NY Times 71 Karachi harbor report.), Bhutto was in with Yahya Khan on Mujib's orders for hanging.
FYI, 265 pages and she could not incorporate the role of US govt. in the Genocide. Maybe it’s time to do historical research where people are'nt called "AMOO"... oh, that 99% of the po' folks of Bangladesh.

Applauded effort, but social antropology at Harvard Yard or two years in the lap of luxury in B'desh does not make someone an expert or spokeperson for 3million dead and 250,000 raped women of Bangladesh.

The very idea, the very audacity of an epic about the Bangladesh genocide!
This is it? Beautiful cover, beautiful pampered kids, everyone in the family is fine in the end. OK. Sold.
To Bangladeshis: I am sure there are enough intelligent Bangladeshi English writers who could do a good job of translating: "Ekaattarer dinguli", a Bengali novel, by far the most popular and widely read book on the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. That would be good.

Anonymous said...

There is another book in English about Bangaldesh by a Bangaldeshi writer called Dirluab Z. Ara. It doesn't touch the war, but gives a good picture of rural Bengal. Recenty it hit the top 10 list in Uruguay. The name of the book is called A List of Offences.Check it out.