The book starts with the narrator confessing to the crime of killing Dr. Salim Agha. Whether his confession is out of remorse or guilt is to be discovered in the course of his narration. He takes the reader on a journey – a journey of Dr. Agha’s life and the circumstances that led to the day of the assassination.
Back in his day, Salim was a child prodigy and his talent was recognised and honed by the feudal lord, General Khan. Through Salim’s childhood and then his schooling years, we are given a glimpse of the newly formed country, fresh from the partition. Class discrimination and politics were prevalent even then, but so was the dazzling night-life accompanied by expensive liquor.
It is during these years that Salim discovers his true identity, and falls in love with the General’s daughter. As the school-going boy progresses towards a young adult, he realises the charade he has been living all his life, compelling him to acknowledge his Ahmadi roots, with drastic results. A hasty dismal from the General and his daughter and Salim is on his way to the United States armed with a full-scholarship for one of the ivy leagues. If life for Salim had been unfair so far, he has a fresh set of hurdles to cross before he attains the prestigious doctorate degree.
While this is pretty much the crux of the story, we have shades of ISIS (the Caliphate), religious hatred, the environment of a snooty boarding school, difficulties faced by a genius trying to achieve his potential and of-course intense emotions of an unrequited love.
So what went wrong?
Unfortunately, a lot. The first 200 pages (out of 358) were beautifully crafted. The rising tension and the political situation kept me hooked on. However, post that mark the finesse in the writing went into a slump. I can count only 2-3 characters that had a distinct personality, others were just present in the background to be used as and when they were required in the story. The character development needed some work and more than their actions, their dialogues revealed the inner workings of their lives and mind. Instead of excessively focussing on the one-sided love story, Said could have easily spent more time in creating stronger characters. The last half of the book felt stretched and repetitive, the love-triangle felt forced and because of these let-downs the climax was a disappointment.
Read this book if you must. But I am eagerly waiting for Zarrar Said’s next work. A less ambitious story and a stronger editor is all that is needed to put him on the bestseller list.
Books have defined my life since I was 10. I love to read and very recently have started writing about the books I've read. My reviews are very personal. I not only talk about the book, but also how I felt while reading it.