17 February, 2014

The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

I have reviewed a book by Nadeem Aslam before, and I have to say he has become one of my favourite authors.  His writing is like beautiful poetry - there is no other way to describe it.  He is able to invoke the scent and the feel of a place and even when situations are very, very bad, descriptions of small details notice something special in everything.

So this story was very tragic and frustrating, yet I came away with a sense of understanding. It is set in modern Afghanistan, post-Russian invasion and post-Taliban rule, in an unstable time when American forces occupy and local leaders compete for power and territory by allying with whichever is the powerful group in their area. Whether they support the Taliban or Americans, their extreme positions deny people (especially women) their freedoms, and put even the innocent in danger.  

The story follows a few days in the lives of six very different people, who may have shared histories, brought together this time by events around them. An elderly doctor and his American son-in-law who are seeking their dead daughter and wife's lost son; a young extremist who is injured when leading an attack on their village; a young woman school teacher who has become in danger through teaching children; an extremist American soldier; and a crazy Russian woman looking for clues on her dead brother. All these people have suffered or been affected in some deep way due to the repeated invasions and conflicts in Afghanistan. Such futility.

Title: The Wasted Vigil
Author: Nadeem Aslam
Published: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2008
ISBN: 9780307268426

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