Exit West: SHORTLISTED for the Man Booker Prize 2017 Paperback
|New from||Used from|
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The brilliant bit of magical realism that Hamid creates are teleportation doors that transport individuals from one country to another. As potential migrants hear about these doors, they become more difficult to escape through, guarded by the power structures. The more desirous the location, the harder it becomes to escape. The story of the refugee experience is brilliantly captured as the two lovers wind up in an upscale mansion in London overtaken by other refugees, many from Africa, along with their sojourn to Northern CA in Marin County. We come to see the characters undergo the pain and struggle of dislocation from friends, family and familiar surroundings while struggling to survive in foreign places where they are generally unwelcome. Each of them copes with the situation in different ways, creating tension in their relationship with each other.
This is an absolutely astonishing book of love and loss, hope and failure, hate and acceptance. It is rightly hailed as one of the best books of 2017 and should be on everyone's must read list. It will undoubtedly become one of the best books of the decade.
To be fair, the book made me think. There were several lines in the text that were beautifully written and thought-provoking. The descriptions of life in a war torn country before they discovered the doors were empathetic making me feel as if I was there. I enjoyed the budding relationship between Saeed and Nadia. For me, this first part of the story felt like an insider's peek at the people behind, suffering, and involved in the real life war stories we hear in the news. For this reason, I appreciate the author's tale.
Then came the doors and the escape - gripping to read. But then, my expectations and the actual story diverged. I was expecting to find the characters building a new, happier life. With time/space transporting doors, the possibilities of roads to travel are endless. Unfortunately, the author went down a less optimistic path in the book. I understand he was sending a message that while change may be necessary, It isn't always better or without cost. There were deep questions raised: How should immigrants and refugees be treated? What toll do survival and migration have on a person and their relationships? What part does religion play in a person's outlook on life? While these things are important to contemplate and discuss, it wasn't what I was expecting.
I would have given this book a higher rating because I appreciate books that make me think, but there were three things that really bothered me as a reader. First, there were many instances (especially toward the end) where the author had half page run-on sentences. These are hard to read and follow. Second, the author added in, from time to time, short tales of other people in other parts of the world experiencing things apart from the main characters. These vignettes were never tied back to the plot line or characters; they were superfluous. Finally, the last chapter jumps ahead 50 years and then just ends. There is no explanation of what happened during that half century. I found that disappointing and frustrating. The last few chapters and ending made me feel like the author didn't know where to take the story and just kind of gave up.
I am glad I read the book, and I think my book club will have many good things to discuss, but I'm not sure it is a book I will recommend to others.
Top reviews from other countries
The trouble with this book, for me, is the plot. The concept is an interesting one - by some sort of unexplained magic, portals start opening randomly all over the world between different places. This of course creates some serious migration issues, as the poor and desperate can suddenly access wealthier countries in a safe, easy way. Most of the story revolves around Saeed and Nadia, a young couple in an unnamed war-town city (presumably from the context in either Syria or Iraq). It charts their life in the city as it descends into chaos, then their escape to Europe through a magical portal, and their lives afterwards.
Both Saeed and Nadia are interesting characters, who were likeable. I didn't feel a very powerful connection with either of them, but I did like them. The first part of the book, describing their relationship developing against the backdrop of a city falling prey to war and violence, was the strongest. The descriptions of life for ordinary people when a developed city becomes a battlefield were extremely well done and moving.
For me, the concept of the doors and the point where Nadia and Saeed went through the door was where the book became less strong. I liked the authenticity of the writing in the first part, but as soon as we got to the teleporting portals that was lost. The descriptions of life in the post-portal world were believable, but the story never regained its momentum after that. I wasn't sure what point was being made - I felt like there must be some profound metaphor underlying the text that I was too dim to see.
Hamid missed an opportunity here. He could have taken his sympathetic Middle Eastern couple and given them a realistic journey to Europe - people smugglers, sinking boats, nations putting up fences etc. I am certain he would have done it in a very believable and hard hitting way that might have given us more insight into the horrible plight of people trying to access Europe that way and all the dangers they face. Giving characters the chance to just open a door and walk through to a safe European country feels like dodging the harsh reality.
Overall it was a well written book that I enjoyed reading but I don't think it will stick in my memory. If anything, I feel puzzled by it. I'll certainly read more of his books, but this one needed a stronger plot structure.
Despite feeling a little lost at first, trying to locate the events, I liked that this is not about a journey travelling across geographical areas, but through the lives of people.
It took me a few (confused) pages to work out the move to anticipated events but I would definitely recommend Exit West as a thought-provoking read to anyone interested in life stories.
The pathos of lives that come together during a crisis and cling on for different reasons, become intimate even and the subsequently disengagement of those unnaturally constructed ties are presented in a way that the reader empathisers with the two main characters and is saddened by the result whilst realising that it is the only possible outcome.
The chaos in London, the tension between established communities and the other as well as between those communities within the other, is very relevant to the times we live in.
The four stars instead of five is because I was not certain about the flow of the story to the end.