Mohsin Hamid (3 stars)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamish Hamilton)

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SOCIAL DRAMA

Mohsin Hamid’s spare, haunting second novel takes the form of a one-sided conversation struck up between a bearded Pakistani man and an American tourist in a restaurant in Lahore. Changez was once top of his graduating class at Princeton and star of the financial company Underwood and Simpson, but as he reveals over the course of an easy evening’s conversation, 11 September and its aftermath gradually led him to question his allegiances.

Hamid slowly and painstakingly builds Changez’ shift from complacency to fury at the US government’s treatment of his home country and her allies, not to mention his sense of personal alienation, this attitude reflecting the gradually eroding sympathy towards America in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the plot trajectory is somewhat predictable, and there’s a melodramatic turn at the end, which rather undermines the otherwise sustained quiet tone.

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