'A Golden Age' by Tahmima Anam
Reviewed by Efadul Huq for Star Campus readers
(As I read it I felt an unknown joy, as if I am reading about my grandparents and their doings; and as I savored the wonderful prose of Tahmima Anam, it seemed to me that finally the golden age for Bangladeshi English writers had begun.)
Whispers of the past have become the domineering voice; small real-life stories have fused together; petty characters have taken up pretty big roles; everybody has a choice to make and will be held responsible for it with all that and more comes a memorable novel 'A Golden Age' by Tahmima Anam, inspired by a glorious chapter in the history of the world, it doesn't stop surprising you with it's simply beautiful prose and intriguing plot.
Rehana, mother of two children (Sohail and Maya) is the protagonist whom the readers chase through Dhanmondi, Neelkhet, Mirpur and Kolkata. Along with Rehana, are a group of ladies better known as gin-rummy ladies and the daughter of one of these women has snatched Sohail's affection. But as Sohail's card-house of love falls apart, it leads him to join the Muktis and on the other hand, Maya's courageous determination to act her part, paves her way to camps in order to serve the wounded and the refugees. As the two children leave, Rehana clutches to their memories, and plans to perform her part of the scene, which for her is a test of courage and valour.
From rickshaw-wallahs to collecting saris to stitch kathas, nothing has been left untouched. The authenticity of the novel is the most striking feature which undoubtedly, brings a foreign reader close to the environment of Bangladesh, and for a Bangladeshi reader, brings him closer to the novel. This bond of familiarity is sure to make you hold on to the book. But is that all? No, the plot will leave you entertained and the imagery offered is a dish fit for the most passionate readers.
Each image in 'A Golden Age' is so well-described that words become sheer reality; especially the descriptions of the tortures inflicted on the arrested people wrenches your heart and dips it in horror. Anam writes with tenderness and she is compassionate to the poor characters, but it never arises pity in you instead it makes you respect her characters. From the dramatic start, “Dear Husband, I lost our children today” you are suspended and only at the astonishing end can you fall back to rest.
The bottom-line is, once you close the book, it'll make you proud to be a Bangladeshi and as a reader it will demand another reading.
First Published in Great Britain in 2007 by John Murray.
Bangladesh edition published by Shahitya Prakash.