If you are a fan of historical fiction, then Kamila Shamsie’s new book is heaven for you. With its foundation made of the history of the sub-continent and a generous sprinkle of Darius’, Scylax’s and Alexander’s story, this book is an engrossing read. To find out more about them, read the book!
Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her new novel “A God in Every Stone” is also has a historical context. She is the author of five novels and was named a Granta Best of Young British Novelist in 2013. From the storyteller’s pen, this new work is another masterpiece – woven with history, it takes you to the Peshawar of the early 20th century.
Before making you travel to Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar (the Street of Storytellers) of 1915, it tells us about Vivian Rose Spencer’s story, an archaeologist. Her story is one which is deeply inspirational, since she takes her career as a passion. With her father’s friend, Tahsin Bey, she traverses across the Temple of Zeus, finding herself interested in the story of a circlet, one decorated with fig leaves. While she finds herself busy volunteering as a nurse back at home, she dreams of going to Peshawar after receiving a letter from Tahsin about the circlet’s possible location.
Qayyum Gul enters the picture as a warrior at Ypres, representing the British Empire in India. He is a native of Peshawar and struck with survivor’s guilt, is forced to return home due to the loss of an eye. His brother, Najeeb is a history buff and it is quite beautiful the way Qayyum and Vivian are linked. It is then a fairytale of sorts, splashed with riveting narration of Viv’s history classes for Najeeb, gory details of the battle at Qissa Khwani Bazaar, Najeeb’s short-lived love story, Qayyum’s guilt and a whole lot of relationships. It is these details that make the story so interesting and the book a page-turner.
A connoisseur of beautiful prose will find every page of the book a masterpiece. Shamsie works at making her storytelling poetic, and you automatically fall in love with her style. The words seem to flow flawlessly, every word sparking imagination and vivid detail. The way she describes Peshawar will make it seem like a city unearthed for its treasure, which Peshawar undoubtedly has. It has treasure in terms of history, and stories sad and beautiful. Peshawar’s ancient social and cultural milieu with political details, such as that of the Khudai Khidmatgar, has been told about through a storyteller’s lens. It is the heritage of this city that Shamsie recounts through a beautiful tale in her book.
As you travel with Viv in Shamsie’s story, you will find yourself a keen traveler. The book has the right elements of imagination, climax and a gripping narrative. However, the ending may not be impressive for someone looking for a ‘complete’ conclusion. An open conclusion in this book leaves the readers to their own devices. Shamsie’s hard work at details for the plot works excellently in A God of Every Stone.
Our rating: 4 out of 5