Category Archives: Political

The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas

91NWARscW6L Title: The Empty Room
Author: Sadia Abbas
Publisher: Zubaan Books
ISBN: 978-9385932267
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Because more stories such as this one need to be told. Stories where the political and personal merge and the voice stands out – being original, fearless and saying it like she intends to. I also most certainly have come to believe that stories of women are best told by women (you can refute me on this one but it is my opinion nonetheless). The story of Tahira in 1970s Karachi is told beautifully by Sadia Abbas. Through a work of fiction, you can sense the tone and emotions that are so real, you are transported back in time. As a reader, I was way too invested in this book and just wanted to see Tahira happy, no matter what.

Like I said, the novel is set in the 70s of Karachi. Tahira is married off quite quickly to someone she doesn’t know and her life falls apart as quickly. She is a talented painter who isn’t allowed to paint. Her marriage is nothing but a trap and she has no voice left. She was always the free one at her parents house – interacting, debating, discussing with her brother Waseem and his friends. She misses all that and comes to know one fine day that her brother and his friends are arrested and caught up in the regressive regime’s line of fire. Tahira’s world is shattered. She doesn’t know what to do and how to express herself anymore till she goes back to painting. All her paintings have the same title, “The Empty Room”.

“The Empty Room” is rich, luxuriant and more than anything else soothing in so many ways. I often found myself weeping and smiling at the same time while reading this book. The nation is new. The bride is new. Her roles are new. There is the rebel inside her which refuses to succumb and Abbas through her succinct prose has brought out all the elements and joined them quite cleverly. Yet, there are so many places where the book just is – it doesn’t try to be anything but show a mirror of times gone by and strangely you can see those times even today around you. They haven’t gone anywhere. The regressiveness exists, doesn’t matter which nation.

Abbas makes Pakistan come alive in this book. The streets, the places, the houses – the very atmosphere that is heavy and sometimes claustrophobic in Tahira’s world is described brilliantly. “The Empty Room” is just an introspective book with a lot of heart, gumption and the idea and hope that things will change for the better. Read it.

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Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk

Adjustment Day Title: Adjustment Day
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 978-0393652598
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Let me very honest and tell you that I wasn’t all that excited when I heard of the new Palahniuk being released. I haven’t enjoyed his last couple of books and yet I was in a strange way looking forward to reading this one.

At the same time, Palahniuk is not every reader’s cup of tea. “Adjustment Day” is his first novel in four years and might I add here that I was more than floored reading it. It is a book that is about the times we live in, the times that are dark and gloomy and no one else to bring it to light, the way Palahniuk does. He wrings the absurdities of society, class and political structure like no one else, almost brandishing each farce and each conspiracy theory lurking in the American psyche, bit by bit.

So, what is Adjustment Day all about?

Adjustment Day is about the rabbit hole of our times – the deep, dark abyss that sucks everything right in, with no chance of redemption. Sounds bleak? That’s exactly what the book is with a dash of humour. At the same time, I think one Chuck Palahniuk novel has the potential to derive five more from it. The plot isn’t linear at all (if you have experienced his writing, then you know that by now) and with every turn of the page you are stunned by the satire, that is so on point.

The book is about people passing the word only to the ones whom they trust the most: Adjustment Day is coming. They are also reading a book for the reckoning. These people are also memorizing the directives. What is this book all about? What is Adjustment Day? In short, this is the plot of the book. But like I said, there is nothing easy about Palahniuk’s writing, till you are about twenty pages in and then it is a breeze.

Adjustment Day is also very relevant to the times we live in – the sound-bite politics, the social media hullabaloo, and the “everything is alright” propaganda we are fed with, basically the media and its culture. Every word is in place and nothing is what is not needed. I may not have enjoyed his earlier books, but this one, I most certainly loved. Palahniuk has done it again and hit it right out of the park!