I picked The Reluctant Fundamentalist up from the library yesterday and read the final chapter this morning. At 184 pages it is a short novel with short chapters and written in a way that encouraged me to keep reading – one of those “I’ll just read one more chapter” type of books. This was one of the things I enjoyed about it, that it was an effortless read.
The story is told as a one way conversation and takes place at a market place cafe in Lahore, Pakistan. The narrator is Changez, a young local man who was educated at Princeton University and ensconsed in the corporate world of New York prior to the events of September 11 2001. His companion is a stranger whom Changez recognises as an American and approaches offering assistance.
Over the next several hours, tea and dinner, Changez tells his life story to this stranger.
He talks of his arrival in America, his schooling and his recruitment by Underwood Samson, an elite firm in the financial world. He talks of the doors that were opened to him, the money he could make, the competitiveness and sense of achievement. During this time he fell in love with Erica, an American girl from a good family. He talked again about the opportunities afforded him from this relationship, he was introduced to an echelon of society that reminded him of the good days in Lahore, prior to its decline. On a business trip to Asia, he even tried to appear more American, seeing the respect his American colleagues were being given.
After the terroist attacks of 9/11 and especially the later threat of war between India and Pakistan, he felt conflicted, becoming disillusioned and angry with his adopted country.
We don’t get to hear from the stranger, his nervousness and occasional questions are relayed back by Changez. It becomes apparent that perhaps their meeting is not a co-incidence or perhaps it is. There is a palpable tension as the story evolves, the market place begins to clear and darkness draws in. The stranger seems to be on the clock, the waiter especially attentive, the narrator insistent on being in control and being able to complete his story.
The book gave me food for thought. Because it is a one way conversation, there are questions I had that were left unanswered, intentionally I think. Having finished the book I’m still unsure of everything that happened. I did enjoy it but I was expecting something different, more meaty. I wasn’t that interested in the romantic side of the story which seemed a bit weak and unnecessary.The book was very well written though so I’m sure there was a point to it being included.
Overall I found this to be very good and I’m pleased to have read it.
2007, 224 pages