Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction 2017 and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in the year 2018, this novel by Mohsin Hamid is a must read if you haven’t done so already.
‘All over the world, doors are appearing.
They lead to other cities, other countries, other lives.
And in a city gripped by war, Nadia and Saeed are newly in love.
Hardly more than strangers, desperate to survive, they open a door and step through.
But the doors only go one way.
Once you leave, there is no going back.’
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Written by the famed author Mohsin Hamid, the novel captures the story of a young, independent girl named Nadia and that of a slightly more reserved character in Saeed. The plot revolves around their relationship with each other, their families and the society in general at a time when their neighborhood is inflicted with war which is enforced upon them by the militant group. Based in an unnamed setting, the author captures the feelings of fear and helplessness that are instilled within the souls of the citizens. Their affection towards each other sees them facing this adversity to the best of their ability. From being natives to refugees, the story of Saeed and Nadia is that of a meaningful context in today’s times- where countries are torn apart by the diplomacy and passive aggression of their counterparts.
In a neighborhood which is considered unsafe for anyone let alone a single woman, Nadia is portrayed as an independent woman who has her own virtues and ideals. A rebel of sorts, she wears a black robe to cover herself so as to survive in the hostile environment. In the war-torn neighborhood, the author expresses the various difficulties that the citizens face during the militant aggression, via the medium of Nadia. Her struggles to obtain food supplies, her inability to communicate with her friends and family are precursors to the further adversities that she would soon be faced with. With the militants gaining new territory every day, the tension in the city is on a knife edge.
A more reserved character in comparison to his fellow protagonist, Saeed is an emotional man who places his values and ideals above all else- his love for his family and birthplace reflects the same. Influenced by his emotions, there are several instances in which Saeed overrules his virtues, as he has to consider the general well-being of Nadia and his family members, which means bending a few norms and taking a few favors from the militants. The author ensures that this character balances out Nadia’s strong character adequately but the truth is that he not balances her strong personality, he complements her to the fullest.
The plot is based on the harsh conditions faced by the refugees and is very relevant in today’s political scenario. Countries are being subjected to militant aggression which alters the lives of the common folk drastically. The sense of desperation amongst the migrants has been highlighted at all points throughout the book, ensuring that the reader at all points feels for these victims. The narration of the plot is that of skill and panache, with the inclusion of stories of men from all around the world- this being representative of the contrasting lifestyles of two men, akin in every mannerism yet different only because they live in different countries, which makes all the difference. The refugees and migrants of these ill-fated cities are in a constant tussle for their sheer existence.
All in all, ‘Exit West’ is a very relevant and well-written book by Mohsin Hamid, who tries to highlight the ills of war via the characters of Nadia, Saeed and their dynamic relationship- their cities being drawn down to dust, yet their love prevailing through the collateral damage.
For more reviews on the book, I would recoomend that you go through the following articles. They have encapsulated the entire setting perfectly and have also conveyed their view points very well. HAPPY READING!