Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

exit west

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

229 Pages

Contemporary/literary fiction

Published on the 7th March 2017

Published by Riverhead

Purchase from | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Fishpond AU | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | QBD |

My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Exit West is a love story set against the backdrop of a unnamed city in the Middle East. A country that is on the brink of war, as the lives of the people who live there are changed forever. Saeed – a gentle, kind and friendly soul – who lives with his parents meets Nadia – a ferocious, independent and strong-willed woman. As a romance begins to bloom the tension begins to give way to bombings and shootings, their once safe city, now a place of unrest and fear. As the fighting gets worse, and Nadia and Saeed’s feelings grow deeper, they begin to hear rumours of strange doors. Doors that have the ability to take the person walking through to the other side of the world, to different places near and far. Soon this becomes people’s only option if they have any hope of surviving. A story that deals with change, growth and fear, this is one story that won’t be forgotten easily.

This was another book that I found because of book club. I was excited to read it when I read the synopsis as I was really intrigued by the doors. I soon realised though, that this book was about so much more than magical doors.

The story revolves around Nadia and Saeed, as they first meet to their budding relationship. I really loved how this story really blew the misconceptions that, I believe, a lot of westerners have about people from the Middle East especially. Nadia is such a strong character. She goes against her societies norms, she fights to live alone as a single woman and rides a motorcycle. She listens to records and she smokes weed. I absolutely loved all of this about her. She was definitely way more domineering than Saeed and I think it was brilliant. We also are given a glimpse into Saeed’s parent’s intimate life, and how his mother is the initiator in their sexual endeavours and how his father just tries to satiate her need, though he does enjoy it as well, not as much as she does. I think this was a fantastic start, it was also a little confronting, but I feel like it really helps the reader to see that these are people just like us, and endears them to us a little by showing their love so openly.

To me this story was more about every day people being thrown into a war zone that used to be their homeland, and how they are just trying to survive. It really hit home how it must feel for someone trying to flee a war torn country for their own or their family’s survival. When these people do go through the doors, they’re still being subjected to war, just another type. They are ostracised because they essentially came to these other countries illegally. The ‘natives’ of the countries feel threatened and fight back. So these terrified people are never really safe, they move from one war to another and the fighting and the fear never seems to stop. They seek out those that they recognise as being from their own country in order to have some semblance of safety and camaraderie. I really felt for them. Even the unknown characters that we come across throughout the story.

I think that the story line of Saeed and Nadia’s relationship deals with things that a lot of people fear, and a lot of people face. The fear that their relationship is breaking down, that what they had is no longer there, and that they fear hurting the other person. It shows how people grow, and in turn grow apart, even though they may not want to. It’s shown as a part of life, and that it is sad, but something that majority of people deal with at some point in their lives. I did love the little part in the last chapter, I feel that it added a beautiful bitter-sweetness to the story.

It was quite obvious (at least I hope that I’m correct in my assumption) that this story appears to be translated from it’s native language (please correct me if I’m wrong) at least it came across this way to me. The narrative is written in a way that I’ve seen in other translated novels. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can take a little bit to get into the swing of the story due to, at times, the bluntness of the voice.

I went into this story thinking that the doors were going to be a big focal point in the story, however, I was wrong. This story focuses on the terror and hope of immigration, the fear of being ostracised and attacked and sent back to where they escaped from, and the hope that there is a better life waiting for them on the other side. The doors simply cut out the more normal means that immigration and illegal immigration use as transport, and I think it was a wonderful small detail that really added to the story.

This was a quick read, but definitely not exactly a light one. It really opened my eyes to how immigration feels to those who are doing so, and I think, especially in this day and age, a story like this could make a massive difference to the way that a lot of people think.

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