Season of the Rainbirds
Nadeem Aslam
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Buy *Season of the Rainbirds* by Nadeem Aslam online

Season of the Rainbirds
Nadeem Aslam
208 pages
March 2013
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Nadeem Aslam’s first novel, Season of the Rainbirds, subtly lures readers into the daily life of a remote Pakistani village on the cusp of monsoon season. A prominent citizen has bewilderingly been murdered in the night. Can the recently recovered bag of letters written almost two decades ago help solve the crime, or will the contents of the once-lost mailbag lead to further unrest among the mourning?

A supremely talented novelist, Aslam was awarded a Betty Trask Award for Season of the Rainbirds, his freshman effort. If the name echoes, he is also the author of Maps for Lost Lovers (widely noted and considered for the Booker Prize), and recently, The Wasted Vigil. Born in Pakistan, Aslam now lives in England.

The listing of principals preceding the start of the story is quite helpful as readers become acquainted with the characters and their relative importance to village dynamics. While the brutal killing of Judge Anwar seems mysterious, it becomes clear that political corruption, religious conflicts and modern civilization are forces continually at work, inevitably changing the village and its inhabitants. As in most small environs, gossip occupies the villagers: Who committed the murder? Why? Who owns a television even though it is frowned upon by Islamic purists? Who will reprimand the Deputy Commissioner for his adulterous relationship with a Christian woman? As Maulana Hafeez, a cleric of one of the town’s two mosques, explains his objection to a television watched in the privacy of a follower’s home:

“That is precisely where the danger lies…in this talk of privacy. It causes people to become selfish, and will lead to the founding of a morally base society.”
Aslam welds a powerful pen, presenting characters like the retired schoolmaster in compassionate descriptions:
“Mr. Kasmi got ready to walk the four blocks to Mujeeb Ali’s house. He collected his umbrella and turned off the bedroom light. As he descended the stairs his shadow trailed behind him like an emperor’s robe.”
Lyrical passages transform foreign soil into a vision: “His wife – obscured by the drizzle, faint as a watermark….” On maids dealing with monsoon worries, amphibious creatures and extra duties:
“The jasmine bush cresting the far wall swayed in the rain, doors creaked, window panes rattled in the frames and curtains swelled into the rooms like ship sails…. An unbroken line of salt ran along the edge of the veranda like a miniature mountain range.”
Aslam delivers shocking surprises in this fluid account of village life. By the end of his compactly woven novel, readers will comprehend what these characters are capable of -- in the name of revenge, in the name of love, in the name of religious traditions, and in the name of a hypocritical, but very real, humanity.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Leslie Raith, 2013

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