“You know how it is with white people. You say it’s race, they tell you you are mistaken. Then they say it’s because of your race when you say it is not.”
So says one of the characters in Happiness. So it is with great caution that I, from my white middle-class perspective, offer my thoughts on this wonderful book about ... race. Or at least immigration.
Admittedly, it covers a million things besides: the core of happiness, the effect of trauma, dementia, grief - for those that have died, for those that have changed, for relationships that change, small pleasures, passing moments. But behind it all is the experience of immigrants.
Happiness follows two main characters from the moment they collide on Waterloo Bridge. Internationally-renowned Ghanaian psychiatrist, Attila, is in town to deliver a keynote on his area of expertise: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, while American scientist J...
This strand is also packed with a knowing humour, from the throwaway - “I am a geriatric primigravida, but I don’t look it,” - to her description of labour, “Between the waves of disembowelling wrench the world is shining. I feel like Aldous Huxley on mescaline.”
Buzz: Man Booker Prize 2017 shortlisted. Picked among 2017's most anticipated books by The Guardian, New York Times, Buzz Feed and more.
Exit West is an intriguing book. On the thinnest skin of surface it’s a love story, set against the backdrop of a refugee crisis. But barely any scratching is needed to reveal what lies beneath: - something that feels more like a parable, or philosophical text, than a novel, asking complex questions about displacement, migration and the resolution of the global tensions they cause.
The success of this book lies in how well that surface layer manages to humanise the refugee experience, to make the issues below seem truly personal. And it does it in the strangest way. Rather than showing the inhuman suffering of the character’s real-life counterparts, Hamid almost strips them of it, both through a distant narratorial style and an unusual plot device. A litt...