Fatima Bhutto’s affectionate portrait of Pakistan

Lucy Beresford in The Telegraph:

Fatima-bhutto-port_2763933bAll the main characters, in their own way, want to put a stop to pain, and Bhutto presents a subtle exploration of what constitutes belonging and how it contributes to peace of mind. The melancholy threaded through the prose reveals her deep understanding of loss (Bhutto’s memoir Songs of Blood and Sword charts some of her famous family’s recent bloody history). As well as a window to Pakistan’s present-day difficulties, and a critique of the devastation wrought by war and fundamentalism, Bhutto’s novel is also an affectionate portrait of her homeland. In the scenes set in markets and bazaars, we glimpse a world so vividly realised that you can almost smell the rich lambs’ hoof curry the community looks forward to eating. The book also offers an under-reported view of ordinary Pakistani women as strong and assertive. As well as defiant Samarra, it is Mina – written off by the men as mad – who in her grief has the strength to stand up to the trigger-happy Taliban.

Above all, what The Shadow of the Crescent Moon captures so well is not just the trauma of war, but also the conflicts of contemporary Pakistanis, torn between remaining faithful to the legacy of previous generations, and their own dreams of choosing their own destiny.

More here.