Title: Exit West
Author: Moshin Hamid
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Publication Date: March 2017
Synopsis: In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins. It will be a love story but also a story about war and a world in crisis, about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Before too long, the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to leave their homeland. When the streets are no longer useable and all options are exhausted, this young couple will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world
Review: Due to time constraints and the fact that my Masters course starts next month with no effort on my part to read my course books, this will be the last Man Booker Prize nomination for a few weeks, just until I feel that I’ve done some form of prep work for university.
So, this book was an experience for me because it isn’t usually something I would pick up. The subject matter of war ravaging countries and society is of course very prevalent today as well as the ever growing refugee crisis and western attitudes towards them. This book certainly brings all of that to the forefront and opens the readers’ eyes to atrocities going on in the world by putting them in the forefront of the action.
The beginning of the book sees Nadia and Saeed meeting and, through several chapters, begin a courtship. Saeed is a traditional, laid-back kind of guy whereas Nadia is a strong, independent woman, even a radical feminist in her country. Their budding relationship is a joy to watch and it beautifully contrasts the growing tensions and invasion that is looming in the background. As the country falls into disarray and the rebellion wins, Nadia and Saeed are pushed closer together and, instead of a calm, easy going relationship, it becomes intense and mirrors marriage. You cannot help but feel thankful that they have each other for support and protection but at the same time, you cannot help but feel that if the relationship had been naturally left to run its course, it wouldn’t have progressed.
The characters were intriguing but they fell a little flat, especially towards the end. They weren’t as fully rounded as they needed to be to support an intense subject such as this, for example, even though their emotions were told to us through third person narrative, they weren’t felt and expressed through the characters which led them to becoming more 2D.
The writer uses an interesting tone throughout this novel, it is very blase and easy going which really worked for the first half of the book, especially when he was describing the horrors of war within Nadia and Saeed’s city. This writing style gave an intense shock factor to the story and I found myself floored by the brutality discussed in the book and how it was portrayed in such a conversationalist way. That said, as the book went over the halfway mark, the tone and style of writing became quite grating and it seemed like nothing was being taken seriously, mainly due to the story line lacking in any intensity and simple meandering along. This coupled with the excessive use of imagery and symbolism led to the second half become quite bogged down and unnecessary, this book could have easily have finished around 100 pages earlier.
In all this book as an experience, a good one at the beginning with the intensity and the blase style complementing each other perfectly, as well as the subject matter really bringing the refugee crisis and current wars to the forefront, however, the second half of the book was a real struggle and I was very happy when it was over.