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Our Lady of Alice Bhatti imbues all its moments with unsparing warmth and almost unbearable pathos. —Jess Row
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Belly-laugh-inducing. Sam Lypsyte funny. Faulty-Towers funny.The silliness is anarchic and profound...a ripping story and a rowdy piece of art" New York Times "Relentlessly readable" Guardian "Alice Bhatti's Karachi is so alive with sensations that you can smell the sewers, hear the screeching of tyres, and feel the humidity" Scotsman "Superbly witty" The Times "An amusingly anarchic tale of Karachi life" Lady
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
it's a shame the previous reviewer gave this book one star. there is fair bit of violence here, and sex too, which may not appeal to the exact stratum of society that especially needs to read it. while the vast majority of south asian literature tends to vacillate between depicting pakistan as a nostalgic space of diaspora or a geopolitical hotbed of fundamentalism, this novel does neither. it offers a portrait of contemporary urban pakistan that is complex, layered and entirely unsentimental. at times it is brutal, but the dark brutality rests on a kind of insight that should not be dismissed. a lot of pundits continue to ask why pakistan remains a country at crossroads sixty five years on. "our lady of alice bhatti" is a not book which specifically sets out to answer that question, but it does get at a certain kind of truth about it.
like mohsin hamid's "moth smoke," "our lady" unfolds as a modern crime noir. it's a tragedy about a woman who is punished not for what she has done but for who she is. her story emerges as an indictment against a society that remains handicapped not by it's polarization against the west as the nightly news would have us believe, but rather because of an internal class based system of misogyny that is condoned by a corrupt church-state system. the house itself is not in order, and the external pressures of the so called new great game have spun it out of control.
despite all this it would still be dismissive to categorize this novel as a timely political thriller, because i think it gets at something even deeper than the current state of affairs in pakistan. at it's heart it's a feminist novel. it's about how the bodies of women are being trampled, displaced and discarded in lieu of rational discourse.Read more ›
Reading this novel felt to me somewhat like my movie experience with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" with that delightful, energetic Indian hotel manager--or mis-manager. Of course the novel takes place in Pakistan, not India. And Alice is certainly not like the hotel manager, but the author's narrative voice most certainly is. It is a wonderful voice.
This is a funny-sad novel written in the style of an Pakistani speaking English--by the way it is published in England's English, i.e., humour. Potential readers need to be aware that you may need to be patient getting into the syntax as well as the sytle, one in which the reader isn't always that certain what is happening when a new scene emerges, but then suddenly the reader has the ah-ha enlightenments.
The novel is set in Karachi's Christian slum, the French Colony, with Alice Bhatti, skinny from malnutrition except large in breats, is the delightful main character, "an underpaid junior nurse in an understaffed" [very, very understaffed] "welfare hospital, The Scared. The cast is wonderful including Alice's father, Joseph, who isn't really very wonderful at all--her mother died when Alice was young--but then emerges in a very unique and very surprising role at the end in the epilogue. (The reader will not easily forget the ending of this novel, an ending that gives meaning to the title.) Noor is a 17-year-old hospital worker who simultaneously is caring for his mother, dying of cancer, often the only way to swat away the pests that inhabit the unsanitary place. The not-so-skilled main doctor, Dr. Pereira, and the sardonic nurse supervising Alice, Sisster Hina Alvi. Alice, by the way, was, in the corrupted view of the administration of the nursing school where she was "trained" "its most troublesome student.Read more ›
this novel will keep you laughing, but it will also teach your more about life for women in Pakistan than you might want to know. Most interesting is hanif's show the reader how Alice adapts to the severe constrictions of her life...some of them idiosyncratic and others cultural..right to the end. i mean the end.
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After spending over a year in a women's prison on some jacked up manslaughter charges, Alice Bhatti secures a job as a junior nurse in a Catholic hospital in the predominantly Muslim city of Karachi. There, she fights to salvage some amount of pride as she fends off roaming hands and gun-toting suitors. In the midst of this chaos, she manages to save a few lives. But is she performing miracles? Hanif's narrative has some truly beautiful moments, but I was left wondering: What's the point? There wasn't really a story-line...it was just a series of events. The scenery and characters supported the novel, but they lacked plot. This book was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust book prize, and I understand why - it displays the woes of practicing medicine in a religiously-charged, seedy environment. I certainly have a better appreciation, now, for medical practitioners in neighborhoods like this. I was moved by the characters, but not enthralled by the story.
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What makes this book interesting, is how Alice lives in such a violent, hard, seemingly heartless war zone, and somehow seems to survive without appearing as damaged as her life is shown to us. I have never been in a war zone, and was sometimes shocked at what I read. But then, one must survive they only way they can. Alice has no idea about her 'miracles', but has no time to consider this with her busy life as a nurse in an understaffed, overpopulated hospital with corrupt staff and patients! It's a tough world over there, count your blessings for those of you in a country free of war!
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