Short, very evocative read.
Simple structure – a monologue. The protagonist, a Pakistani man named Changez, tells his story to a nervous American stranger in a tea shop in Lahore. His story – falling in and out of love with America – is a gripping one. He tells us of his studies at Princeton, his relationship with an American woman, his high-paying job at a valuation firm where he’s quickly recognised as one of the brightest talents, and then his gradually occurring disdain for the nation, post 9/11.
Changez’s account felt real and convincing. His disillusionment comes about slowly, progressively, and as a result, we are empathetic. The love story between him and Erica is poignant and delicately written, and takes up a large part of the novel, serving as a sort of allegory of Changez’s turbulent relationship with America (but to me it still felt like a touching – albeit sad – love story in its own right).
It was difficult to miss some of the ironies though. One that struck me in particular was when Changez referred to Erica’s father’s tone (he makes some rather arrogant comments about Pakistan’s political problems) as having a ‘typically American undercurrent of condescension’. This felt a little hypocritical, considering his lofty manner of speech and pompous narrative throughout when addressing the American stranger who sits opposite him. But this, I think, was the point.
An intriguing novel, to say the least, and one that forces the reader to confront uncomfortable, but necessary, questions.