Blurb: July 1914. A young English woman, Vivian Rose Spencer is running up a mountain side in an ancient land. She picks up a fig and holds it to her nose. Around her is a maze of broken columns, taller than the tallest of men. Nearby is the familiar lean form of her father’s old friend, Tahsin Bey, an archaeologist. Viv is about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure and the ecstasy of love. July, 1915. An Englishwoman and an Indian man meet on a train to Peshawar. Viv Spencer is following a cryptic message sent to her by the man she loves, from whom she has been separated by war. Qayyum Gul is returning home after losing an eye at Ypres while fighting for the British Indian army, his allegiances in tatters. When they disembark the train at Peshawar they are unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives – one of which they will be unaware until fifteen years later when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artifact and a mysterious green-eyed woman will bring them together again over seventy-two hours of heartbreak, frayed loyalties and hope.
About the author: Kamila Shamsie is the author of five novels, including Burnt Shadows which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and has been translated into over 20 languages. She has also written a work of non-fiction, Offence: The Muslim Case. A trustee of Free Word and English Pen, she grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.
Review: A God in Every Stone, story set in Peshawar is about sides of British Indian rule and 1930’s Pakhtun uprising. The story is behind an artefact (a precious silver coronet), which is attempted to unearth in Peshawar by British archaeologist Vivian Spencer. Although the artefact is not discovered, Najeeb Gul Peshawari protégé does discover it. The story revolves around Vivian, Najeeb and his elder brother Qayyum.
Kamila’s novel is a page-turner in a classy sense of the word. The book is divided into two parts
1) The first is set in Britain and then Peshawar 1915
2) And the second half takes place in 1930.
I felt there was a legendary quality to her writing. Social responsibility and personal conscience pulled the author towards meticulously describing the struggle of subcontinent’s proudest people, against the British. Kamila Shamsie is a mature writer, her character development proves it. I liked the personality of Vivian Spencer who remains rational and surprising conception. For it is through Vivian we get a genuinely sympathetic view of the plight of the Pakhtuns, and the indifference of the British. Positioned during Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement the novel is balanced, but frankly sensible, when it comes to critiquing the British. I hoped that this book would be a thriller but surprisingly it turned out to be strands of ancient history with a modern twist with discoveries. Not a disappointment for me. Shamsie’s authorial concerns are far nobler and more moral than that, and the reader can for that reason look forward to startling rewards.
I write a lot, which keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. There is always something to write about, always a new story to craft. Not writing, for me, is like trying to hold back a sneeze. Learning to write was the most powerful influence in my life. I can still remember the awe I felt when I realized I could put real words onto paper and tell out a story. From that first ‘a-ha’ moment I knew I wanted to write.
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