Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

burnt-shadowsI recently read and reviewed A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie. As I mentioned then, Shamsie is one of my favorite South Asian writers, so when Ali at HeavenAli said Burnt Shadows was even better, I considered it a challenge. It had long been on my TBR list and decided now was the time to dive in.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Burnt Shadows was better than A God in Every Stone, but it was very good. Burnt Shadows is another far reaching story. It is about Hiroko, a Japanese women living in Nagasaki during World War II. Yeah, so you know what happens next. She ends up in India and falls in love with a man there. Their lives take them through various countries and important world events including the Partition of India and Pakistan, various conflicts in Afghanistan and 9/11.

For the most part I loved Burnt Shadows. The story is adventurous, brings together world events and shows how interconnected we all are. But I also felt that the story fell into sentimentality. In particular, Hiroko’s romance with Sajjad, after her ill-fated love affair with Konrad was a little saccharine for me and slowed the story down for a time.

Who would like this book? Shamsie never fails to see the big picture and the inter-connectivity of world events. This perspective alone makes Burnt Shadows worth the read. She is able to how the more things change, the more they stay the same without seeming trite or derivative. For that reason this book should appeal to those with an interest in current events and the history of the last 100 years. The points of discussion would also make it a great pick for a serious minded book club.


  1. I read this a while ago and can’t remember many details, but I do remember the power of that first chapter and the disappointment that the rest of the book failed to be as good. I thought there were a few too many coincidences and it tried to cover too much ground.. It would have been better if it had just focused on a few characters. I haven’t read her other book – I must try it some time.

  2. I agree. The early part of the book was utterly gripping but then fell into sentimentality. But i did think it recovered itself in dealing with the second generation. Shamsie’s other books do stand out above this one, but i did like the way she brought together world events. We are living in a very mobile age and she shows how small the world can be.

  3. Pingback: July Round Up | 52 books or bust

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