I wanted to hear a female voice from Pakistan, because it has become a bit repetitive with all the male authors writing about the same issues in this region of Asia – Middle East. I was therefore excited about finding The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto. It is her debut novel, but she is far from being an unknown person. Her grandfather was the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and so was her uncle. A lot of assassinations and other dreadful things have happened to her family, even done by other family members. Therefore she definitely knows what she is writing about.
The book is set during a day of the lives of three brothers, but takes us back in time with many flashbacks. The three brothers decide to go to three different mosques because it would be too risky to go to just one mosque during these troubled days. The book focuses on three parallel fights – America versus Taliban, Sunni versus Shia and the age-old fight between the region and the central government, covered in a dream of independence. The themes are a bit obvious, especially since I hoped for a different kind of a read. Some of the stories are clichés, like radical Sunni Muslims, bombs killing children and the actions of the Pakistani government. Yes, these things exist, but still.
It has its benefits to be a well-known persona when trying to get your book published. People as well as publishers are most likely intrigued by Bhutto’s family background. The book could have been edited and polished a bit more. For a book that is not in the end a fast-paced international thriller, it has cryptic dialogue, which does not carry through, and something I cannot stand, the withholding of information. It is a rookie mistake. Flashbacks are used in many books and quite often it works, but in this case, it was not the best idea. There were too many of them. The writing is also uneven at times, changing from one style to another.
It might sound harsher than it is, since there are several good things about the book as well, but for a book of 240 pages, quite a few problems could have easily been fixed before the publishing of the book. The characters in the book highlights the three different major conflicts in this region of the country. There are so many conflicts for everyone living in the region, and yet in the end everyone is a human who is trying to adapt and live a normal life. Even though it might not sound like the female voices in the book are strong, they are probably the most interesting characters. Another strength in the book is how Bhutto deals with the theme of sacrifice. Living in a constant war and fear makes sacrifice a common issue in everyone’s life.