I read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid last month along with my book buddy Anjly and a few others on Instagram for our #manbooker17readalong. To be honest, I was bitterly disappointed by this novel. Though love stories don’t really work well for me, and I was skeptical as to how this would turn out. I still read this as a part of our read along after reading a lot of positive reviews on goodreads .
Two lovers, Nadia and Saeed trying to escape from a city at the brink of civil war or even worse. The plot had so much potential to turn this novel into one of the best books of 2017, if only it was written wisely. The characters were quite underdeveloped. I couldn’t see the love-chemistry which I expected between the lead characters. Their relationship seemed too bland to me.
Some of the scenes described in the novel were too obnoxiously absurd. Unnecessary description of things which never linked to the main story!
For instance, take a look at this excerpt from the novel:
“Saeed’s parents did not have sex until their wedding night. Of the two, Saeed’s mother found it more uncomfortable, but she was also the more keen, and so she insisted on repeating the act twice more before dawn… Generally speaking, she was voracious in bed. Generally speaking, he was obliging….”
Woah! I don’t know what to say, but why would any want to know how well the mother of the lead character were in bed????? *Cringe* *Cringe* *Cringe*
And it continues…
“After Saeed was born, the frequency with which his parents had sex dipped notably, and it continued to decline going forward. A uterus began to prolapse, an erection became harder to maintain….”
“…they had sex only thrice. As many times in a year as on their wedding night…”
Like seriously?? Why would anyone be interested in knowing the protagonist’s parent’s sex life to this extent. Totally disgusting, doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know what our author had in his mind before writing this. Who would want to know if their parents still have sex or the erection stuff??? The cringe is too much for me to handle.
Moving on to the next thing which made me go WTF!!!
“…Saeed asked her about her conservative and virtually all-concealing black robe.
‘If you don’t pray,’ he said, lowering his voice, ‘why do you wear it?’….”
To which Nadia replies…
“So men don’t fuck with me.”
Okay, so as per my understanding, with this portion our author is trying to say that women are safe when they wear robe and this type of clothing protects women from any sort of misbehavior, which definitely doesn’t go with my logic. But then, I see a contradictory scene where Nadia was molested while she was at the bank, after a few pages post this conversation between Nadia and Saeed.
“…and there in the unruly crowd she was groped from behind, someone pushing his hand down her buttocks…”
I didn’t describe the whole scene here since it was written hideously, which won’t evoke the readers but give wrinkles to the nose. (as one of my friend said it while I was discussing this book). Also, I’m not sure as to why this scene was even described in such a manner and what does the author want to portray with this? I believe it was mere over-writing, trying to make the reader feel empathetic towards the character, which was apparently a failed attempt. Throughout the novel, I didn’t feel anything at all for the characters.
How can I forget about the Magical exit doors concept which was supposed to add some magical realism into the novel? It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood TV shows, Doraemon, where Doraemon had a magical door gadget which allowed him to go to places. Doraemon did it way before it was cool! 😀
To point out other similar instances in the novel will take me a long time, and I don’t want to waste time and energy on it. I think I’ll just leave it here.
Coming to the writing, it was too pretentious and dull. It’s okay to use fancy words to beautify the novel, but at least it should have been maintained entirely. I even noticed flawed punctuation throughout the novel, too many commas( , ) at unnecessary places. Few parts had smaller paragraphs and while some had huge unending paragraphs which quite often bore the reader, at least to me. The best part about the novel is that it’s less than 300 pages, the reason I was able to finish reading it in 3 days and didn’t abandon it
Sadly, I feel an attempt to produce a better novel out of a dystopian plot was wasted. Could have been much better.
My rating : 🌟🌟/5