Thursday, August 14, 2008
69. "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" - Mohammed Hanif
I'm learning more about Pakistan culture and history through my dedication to reading mass quantities of books, but this novel is the first to drive me to purchase more in order to fully understand a nation's history. In this case, it is the mysterious death of Pakistan's president, General Zia, who led the nation from 1978-1988. This novel takes the credit for his death, as well as introducing a literary voice that is truly unforgettable.
Ali Shigri is the narrator of this story, a sarcastic, self-effacing silent drill leader at the Pakistani Air Force Academy. His father was murdered/committed suicide, and Shigri wants revenge, but he is smart enough to know how to play the rules with the military.
Switching back and forth between true history and wonderfully developed fiction, as well as the viewpoints from the president's wife to a crow, this book develops tension from the first chapter and holds it consistently throughout the novel. Who is plotting Zia's death? Who is out to get Shigri? We know how it ends, but how does it get to the end? Hanif does not disappoint - not with the plot, not with the characters, and certainly not with the entire work.
Here is my personal favorite and vote for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.
4.75 out of 5.0 Copper Camel Humps.