Magazine article The Spectator

'The Bones of Grace', by Tahmima Anam - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'The Bones of Grace', by Tahmima Anam - Review

Article excerpt

Mysteries abound here -- enigmas of identity and betrayal, long-buried secret transactions leading to quests -- for a lost child, an abandoned wife, a missing mother... The Bones of Grace has a narrative as fragmented as a scattered jigsaw, initially puzzling, with seemingly disparate stories slowly coming together one by one, until the moment a last piece clicks sweetly into place to give us the revelation of a perfect, satisfying whole.

The book is conceived as a love letter from Zubaida, a young Bangladeshi palaeontologist at Harvard, to Elijah, a stranger who comforts her when she weeps at a Shostakovich concert. Love at first sight, but bad timing: she's leaving to join a much-coveted expedition to Pakistan, to dig for the skeleton of Ambulocetus, the 'walking whale', an intriguing evolutionary blip. The dig is halted when the Pakistan military storm in and arrest (possibly murder) one of the team. Traumatised, Zubaida retreats to Dhaka, enveloped by her affluent family and wedded to the 'suitable boy' they always intended her to marry.

Zubaida is suspended in limbo, caught between different worlds and conflicting loyalties; between her husband and the man who could change her destiny. She and Elijah communicate using song titles as coded texts -- who knew Nina Simone could be so functional? Concealed beneath Zubaida's apparently confident exterior is deep unease: she was adopted as a baby, and meeting Elijah's 'perfect' family in Boston has reawakened old fears about the birth mother nobody wants to discuss. In a fit of revulsion against her own inertia, she joins a documentary project covering working life (and death) on the Chittagong ship-breaking yards -- a decision that will transform her life, and open a door to her past and her future.

Tahmima Anam, one of Granta's Best Young British novelists of 2013, carried off the Commonwealth Writers' award for a first novel with A Golden Age . …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.