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Our Lady of Alice Bhatti Paperback – February 26, 2013
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Relentlessly readable. . . . A comedy for those who think, a tragedy for those who feel. . . . Hanif does Karachi better than Rushdie does Bombay. . . . Perhaps Pakistan's brightest English-language voice."
"Rambunctious, vulgar, funny, and moving, Alice Bhatti wields enormous emotional punch. . . . Right now the world could do with more books that portray Pakistanis that way."
"In this bold, uncompromising novel, Hanif draws a compassionate and despairing portrait of a nation in bedlam."
—Financial Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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. this war is not being waged by outlaw forces in turbans but by fathers, husbands and brothers who have acquiesced to a society of inequity. and it's happening because a country has turned in on itself. the daily human suffering that has come out of this cannibalization is what "our lady" is really about. combined with hanif's previous "a case of exploding mangoes," it's a must read.
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." Delightfully so for the reader.
"Sometimes it seems to her [Alice] that the seven thousand patients in the hospital, hundreds crawling in the corridor, thousands more out in the compound using bricks as pillows, are feeling a bit better because they are in the hospital compound, only a few metres away from operating theatres, labs and drug dispensaries." In other words his hospital is on the edge of the section of Karachi where the wealthy live and work and are cared for.
The novel is filled with back stories, sometimes told obliquely in unexpected places, giving the reader a sudden jolt of additional pleasure--or sadness.
Alice meets Teddy Butt, an underling policeman who waxes his body-builder being and is in charge of getting criminals to and from places including not-Abu Zar. (I will not explain the not-Abu because that is part of the fun of the novel if you like your fun to be on the flip side of tragic. And Teddy's boss is Inspector Malangi who has a rather, well, I won't tell, last day on the job, on the day he retires.
And then comes the epilogue. And I won't say more except that this is a really underrated novel by some of the reviewers here.
"Our Lady of Alice Bhatti" is a riff on Pakistan's brutal oppression of women as seen through the brief life of a hospital nurse from one of Karachi's slums. It is cleverly structured and somehow Hanif manages to leaven his tale with dark humor. As I said, I don't know how Hanif does it. This novel is brilliant.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Highly recommend it to anyone looking for a read beyond the usual .