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A Case of Exploding Mangoes Paperback – May 5, 2009
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About the Author
- Publisher : Vintage; 1st edition (May 5, 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 323 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307388182
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307388186
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.19 x 0.76 x 7.99 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #286,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Hanif is the first Pakistani author besides Malala Yousefzai that I've read, and she doesn't write fiction. So what besides his literary pyrotechnics and dark comic genius did I find so astonishing? Frankly, it was the relationship, explicitly beyond bromance, between the fictional Ali Shigri, the Pakistani air force pilot who is the novel's main character, and his bunkmate, Cadet Obaid, the fey misfit whom Shigri calls Baby O. It is hot! It happens to be one of the novel's main themes, although you wouldn't know this from the jacket copy or from Amazon's other reviewers.
The mystery itself is rooted in what exactly happened when Gen. Zia's aircraft suspiciously crashed. Hanif posits that it was a confluence of events, alluded to in the title, itself a double-entendre: a case as in "an investigation" and a case as in "a container of." The double-entendre is typical of Hanif's style - clever, dry and rife with overlapping meanings and crossing stories. I found the story a bit slow to take off - the connection between characters and their roles and relationship to one another took some time to straighten out. I am glad I stuck with the story, as the early investment paid off once the interconnectedness of characters to events became clear.
Readers with a passing familiarity with Paksitan (and its recent history) will be much more "in on the jokes" Hanif presents here: the Lahore Fort, Zia's twitching moustache, the political jokes about Zia. Those reading the book "cold" will still find much to enjoy here, as Hanif does an admirable job of tying together characters and their different stories. I wish some definitive closure was given to Zainab's story line, however, and an event between young Shigri at Lahore Fortress could have been more clearly shown. An entertaining read.
Wild plots abound amid the bloated security apparatus of the modern Pakistani state. General Zia, he of the oiled mustache and expanding midsection, is bent on the Islamization of his country, although his subordinates are mostly bent on getting and keeping power. His opposite number, the lowly Shigri, has to keep one eye open when in group prayer, the better not to make an embarrassing spiritual mistake. The action moves at dizzying speed from the lowest, most filthy dungeons to the rarified dining rooms of powerful officials.
The humor is crazy, sometimes sophomoric, always amusing. How else can one shoot barbs at fat generals, loony CIA operatives, manipulative information ministers, and greedy "widows" brought in as props for the General's charity? How else to mock a third world country with, as one character puts it, a first world security service?
By the time the mangoes actually get around to exploding, the madcap humor does begin to wear a little thin, rather like the second half of Saturday Night Live. However, the many good bits make this novel a pleasure to read.
Since Zia-ul-Haq did in fact die in a plane crash and many believed it was an assassination, the author takes this historical fact and weaves an elaborate, interesting and often very funny story around it. In fact, he uses many historical facts and figures in the book, some quite accurately. As a result, the book becomes a very interesting and often entertaining glimpse into the life of Pakistan and the Pakistani culture.
The writing is solid, the story is a good one and the facts are well researched. This book is well worth reading.
Top reviews from other countries
If you want to know more about Pakistan, and why it is what it is today then read this story. It tells us about the era of General Zia the Dictator responsible (with the help of our Arabian friends) for the political islamisation of a great country.
Told with humour and skill. I couldn't put it down.