A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam
As young widow Rehana Haque awakes one March morning, she might be forgiven for feeling happy. Her children are almost grown, the city is buzzing with excitement after recent elections. Change is in the air.
But no one can foresee what will happen in the days and months that follow. For this is East Pakistan in 1971, a country on the brink of war. And this family's life is about to change forever.
Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, 'A Golden Age' is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith, and unexpected heroism. In the chaos of this era, everyone must make choices. And as she struggles to keep her family safe, Rehana will be forced to face a heartbreaking dilemma.
I have had a couple of adult fiction strike outs this year, so I was afraid that A Golden Age might just join the number of "unfinished adult literature casualty". But interestingly enough this was my first finished adult fiction read this year! *pats back*
First off, I love how this book was written. Simple and straightforward and real. The language despite it's simplicity, conveys vivid images of war and love and death. Bangladesh, despite being a foreign land with a foreign culture, never did felt exotic to the point of it being strange. I felt that it could just have been my own home. The people, like Rehana could just have been my mother. Maya and Sohail my siblings. (Since I am unschooled in the history of Bangladesh, I cannot comment on the accuracy of the historical facts in the book and will just take them as they are.)
Motherhood is a most prominent theme in the story. Not your average, everyday kind of motherhood but motherhood tested by war. And Rehana was truly tested and she has been through so many things just for her children. She literally did anything and everything for them. A true example of what unconditional love means. It wasn't only through a mother's eyes that the war was depicted but also through a myriad of other Bengalis. The student activists, the wives and the husbands, the rebel leader, the newly wed, the siblings, the friends, the rich and the poor.
The story is beautiful and heartbreaking. It's the kind that made me despise being human because how could we even think to engage in war with each other? How greedy and ruthless and power hungry we can be. And yet it also made me revel in the human spirit of rising up from the ashes. Of how much love and kindness we are actually capable of even in tough times.
A Golden Age is a recipient of the following: The Guardian First Book Award Nominee (2007), Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book Overall (2008)
This is my 23rd entry for the Award Winning Books Reading Challenge hosted by Gathering Books.
Thanks to the lovely ladies of Gathering Books for sending me this book as a prize for the AWBRC!