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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Sleep-Walking In Bangladesh

The Bones of Grace: A Novel - Tahmima Anam

Just before she is due to set off for a dig in Pakistan, Zubaida, a Bangladeshi woman studying palaeontology in America, falls in love with a young American man she meets by chance at a concert. They spend almost every minute of those last few days together; then Zubaida sets off for Pakistan and gradually her life begins to unravel.


When the dig is closed down by the army she goes home to Bangladesh, to the parents who adopted her when she was a baby. In a vulnerable state she sleep-walks into the marriage her family have always planned for her. Unhappy and confused, she becomes obsessed with trying to trace her birth mother, a quest that sees her ill-fated marriage collapse as she struggles to re-make her identity.


There is some exquisite observational writing here that often forced me to slow down and take note. However, the effect of this is offset by the tone which is declamatory and sometimes feels over-blown, and by the looseness of the structure: there are so many different plot-strands that, at times, it feels like two or three novels bundled together.


Nevertheless, The Bones Of Grace is an intriguing novel, not least because it offers a glimpse into a world and an experience that is hugely under-represented. It’s the kind of novel that Reading Groups would enjoy. There is so much to talk about.