From The Washington Post:
Tahmima Anam’s first novel is a generous act of creative empathy. Born in Bangladesh four years after the nation won its independence from Pakistan, the author grew up abroad and now lives in London. Yet from her family’s stories and her own research, she has crafted a compelling tale steeped in her native land’s diverse culture. A Golden Age chronicles a young widow’s hesitant heroism during the convulsive year 1971, when rebels, including the widow’s teenaged son and daughter, battle an army employing genocide and torture to subdue Pakistan’s breakaway eastern region.
Rehana Haque is an unlikely hero. A prologue set in 1959 shows her losing a custody battle with her wealthy brother-in-law Faiz. “Poor, and friendless,” 26-year-old Rehana lacks the confidence to assert that her children belong with their mother. When the judge asks, “What would your husband want?” she admits, “He would want them to be safe.” Faiz convinces the judge that Maya and Sohail are not safe in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, roiled by strikes and demonstrations; they are sent to live with him in West Pakistan, a thousand miles away. The prologue closes with Rehana’s rueful memories of her husband, a cautious insurance executive who foresaw and forestalled every possible danger to his children and his much younger wife — except the sudden heart attack that left Rehana unable to prevent Faiz from taking them.
Twelve years later, as the main action begins, Rehana is preparing the party she throws each year to celebrate the day in 1961 when she brought her children back to Dhaka.