It’s not often I venture from the tried and true. I’m an American lit girl. I’ll stray for a good mystery, and I’ve always loved British lit, but I’m an American reader through and through. I’m fascinated by novels of race and identity, and the collective consciousness of American writers intrigues me. However, I’m also very open minded as a reader. (Yes, you can be open minded and picky – I promise… I know you were thinking it.) The world of book blogging has made me consciously consider my reading choices, and for that, I am very grateful. I don’t mean that I run out and pick up the book about which everyone is blogging. Far from it. I would much rather find my own rewarding reads. The library makes that a possibility for me. I know some bloggers are making a concerted effort not to spend money on books for very valid and personal reasons. My reason is necessity. This past year, after quitting a lucrative but miserable job to teach as a university adjunct instructor (a choice I don’t regret in the least), life has been difficult financially. So the library enables me to make adventurous choices in my reading.
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam was an adventurous choice for me. Set in Dhaka, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and in the 1970s, the surroundings were completely foreign to me. I love to travel, but have never visited this region of the world. The novel opens with the words: “Dear Husband, I lost our children today.” No, the children have not died, and no, they are not simply lost in the colorful markets of Bangladesh. Rehana Haque, widow, has been declared unfit to raise her children because she has little money and took her children out of school to see Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. She grieves, and in grieving, her brother and sister-in-law make a play to raise the children on their own across all of India in Lahore, West Pakistan. This event shakes Rehana deeply and forever alters her life even though she is able to get her children back. As grown children, Sohail and Maya are headstrong, enthusiastic, convicted citizens who want a better life and a better country. When her son decides to join in fighting, he leaves and cannot stop him, “not just so she would have Sohail’s confidence, but because she could not blame anyone but herself for making him so fine, so ready to take charge. This was who she had hoped he would become, even if she had never imagined that her son, or the world, would come to this.” Rehana worries her children will be lost to her once again when internal and external conflicts threaten their existence.
A tale of love, loss, heartbreak, war, and sacrifice, A Golden Age is full of humanity and the lengths to which a mother can and will go in the fight for her children.