Broken Verses

“Broken Verses” by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan)

Synopsis and Review

“Broken Verses”: needed more editing to mend

Fourteen years ago Aasmaani’s mother, Samina, a political activist admired also for her grazia, walked out of their house and was never seen again. Aasmaani has always refused to believe she is dead and still dreams of her glorious return. Now in her 30s and living in Karachi, Aasmaani starts to receive mysterious letters from her mother’s partner, the Poet, who was assassinated two years before Samina’s disappearance. As Aasmaani tries to unravel the mystery, she is irresistibly drawn to Ed, her ally and sparring partner, and the only person who can understand the profound hurt – and the profound love – which drives her.

Readers liked many elements of the story and felt that once you got into it, the plot, although simple, kept you turning the pages. They liked the inner dialogue of the main character, Aasmaani, and felt empathy for her. They also liked some of the secondary characters, mainly the female ones who came across as strong, unlike the male characters who readers found weak. The political setting of Pakistan today was subtly felt throughout, though some readers found that the more dominant themes of parent/sibling relationships and hero worshipping prevailed, giving the impression that the story could have been set anywhere. Readers liked the style which flowed, though most felt that it could have done with more editing since certain passages were long-winded. Some readers felt that there were too many obvious literary references making it sound pretentious at times. They also felt that, comparatively, the ending was wrapped up too quickly and neatly. It received an overall rating of 6 out of 10, the lowest score this season.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 3 (Feb – Jun 2006)

“Pilgrim” by Timothy Findley (Canada) *
“Mr Potter” by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua)
“Island” by Aldous Huxley (U.K.)
“Broken Verses” by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan)
“Distant Palaces” by Abilio Estevez (Cuba)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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