Written in typical Mohsin Hamid style: Totally different from the other two novels.
It is a hot, humid weekend and you don’t feel like stepping out of the house. So you plan to stay indoors and read all weekend. You have in front of you, on your Kindle, a book written by an author whom you’ve read before. You’ve loved one of his books and liked the other. So you wonder what emotion this book will evoke. When you finally finish the twelve chapters, you will realise that what you feel for this book is something in between love and like.
You don’t understand the snark behind the way this book was written in the format of a self help book. But then, you have never read any self help books and so find it difficult to compare it with a real one and understand the sarcasm. You also don’t like the way the chapters are titled ‘ Don’t fall in Love’ ‘ Learn from a master’ ‘ Become a patron of the arts’ etc because there is not much relevance to the actual content except for the first couple of paragraphs in each chapter.
But you are a fan of the author and you therefore expect to be a fan of the book. So you look beyond the small things that bug you and focus on the bigger picture : The Story. You find the story unremarkable, but narrated in a very remarkable way. A few pages into the book, you settle down comfortably into the second person style of narration and follow the rags to riches story of an unnamed boy and his unnamed family and friends in an unnamed city in an unnamed country. But since you know where this story is actually set, and you live in a country close to this unnamed country, in Rising Asia, you are able to relate.
You read about the poor boy from a village who moves to the city, gets an education, works in a shop that pirates DVDs, meets a pretty girl and does not fall in love with her. Then you read about how the boy becomes a man, learns the tricks of the trade by first selling expired food products with new labels and then becomes his own boss, running a successful bottled water business with nothing but a stove and tap water. You then see him getting richer and richer right before your eyes, thanks to unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats and the god-created economic and social imbalance in Rising Asia. You also follow the progress of the pretty girl, the one he didn’t fall in love with, from being a beauty parlour assistant to a model to a TV cookery show host to an imported furniture dealer. You wish his wife, a woman with a mind of her own, something you don’t expect from women in that unnamed country, could have gotten more black squiggly print in the book.
After the twelfth chapter, you close the book with the satisfaction of having read a satisfactory book. But it does nothing to evoke any strong emotions from you. None of the characters will linger in your mind nor will they fade away soon. You then update your blog and your Goodreads page with your thoughts about the book, try to be creative and attempt to write your blogpost in the same style the book was written in, tick off one more book in your Reading Challenge for 2014, and move on to the next book.