Monday, January 09, 2012

Ours Are The Streets

I finished Ours Are The Streets while eating a vegetarian burger in an enormous food court in Singapore. I was happy to eat the burger, and I suppose I was happy to finish the book as well.

It's a very well written book, smoothly moving between Yorkshire vernacular, Punjabi and Urdu. It's also incredibly efficient: so much is hinted at by Imtiaz's estranged wife saying "You really hurt me last night." without giving away what has happened that we've not been told about. As we reach the final stages of the story, it's clearer and clearer that Imtiaz is an unreliable narrator, seeing things or saying things that don't make sense, obsessing over the direction of feet, fantasising about being at home, wherever home might be.

So it's a very well written book. It's not a very enjoyable book; at times it's just heartbreaking. Even if, like me, you don't find yourself very sympathetic with anyone in the story, it's clear that there's so much unresolved hurt there that it can't help but sadden you. It feels like a chronicle of loss, and of lost opportunity; people sacrificing themselves for the good of their family, only to have their children sacrifice themselves for some religious ideal.
Thus it's worth reading: it makes you engage with people that sometimes act in abhorrent ways, or just ways that are alien to your own existence, and so it makes you think. It doesn't make you think happy thoughts, unfortunately. I suppose I had the burger for that.


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