Publisher: Penguin Books
Pub date: 2011
Source: Personal copy
(This is a short review of a book I read a while ago and made notes on. I don’t have this book with me now, so you’ll notice the review is a little thin on the details.)
Synopsis (From GoodReads)
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
A Golden Age is the story of a family during the struggle between East and West Pakistan. Pakistan was a country split by India – the people in East and West Pakistan spoke different languages, had different cultures. All the common people wanted was to be safe and live their lives.
Rehana is a young widow in East Pakistan who does all she can to give her children the best. She loses them to her brother-in-law after her husband dies as she has no means to support them. She manages to get them back, but this loss affects her choices for the rest of her life.
As her children grow up, Rehana is a good place in life. She has her routine, her friends and her yearly celebrations. But with the changing political climate in the country, this state of contentment cannot last very long. Rehana’s children Maya and Sohail get caught up in the political movement – a pro-Bangla stance.
Motherhood is a strong theme of the story. And the idea of belonging and a place to call home. Maya and Sohail are willing to take radical steps to make sure that their country is truly the people’s and are willing to take the necessary risks to see this happen. Rehana would never have gotten involved in any of these dangerous events if not for her children’s conviction and her unquestioning love and support of them. All she wants is to go back to her routine ordinary life, but the events of the time will cause echoes in years to come.
Some knowledge of Bangladesh’s war of independence and history of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from the 1940s to the 1970s will definitely help to appreciate the story more. Anam doesn’t spend too much time laying out the background of the struggle, focusing more on how this affects Rehana and her family.
Rehana had my sympathy right from the beginning, but Sohail and Maya are not so easy to like or empathise with. The story is highly emotional, but as a reader, I was able to observe the events as they happened to others, never feeling fully involved in their lives.
What I appreciated was the tug of war between personal safety and political convictions that was there throughout the story. What was even more interesting was Rehana’s journey and evolution through these years and seeing that she found the courage she needed to deal with everything that was thrown her way.
Definitely recommended for anyone who is interested in character driven stories about the period and the region. Fans of literary fiction will also find A Golden Age a slow but satisfying read.
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