Mohsin Hamid – Moth Smoke

18Mar09


This is The Great Gatsby set in the 21st century, in Pakistan. The similarities between the two books are striking, and the endings are almost identical. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that this book was inspired by Fitzgerald’s classic.

An insight into the life of the rich social circle in Pakistan, this book explores some of the typical subjects one would expect by a sub-continent writer.

To be honest, this is probably the second or third book I’ve read by a Pakistani author (the only others I’ve read are The Reluctant Fundamentalist by the same author, and The Islamist – can’t remember who wrote that!), and as this was the first one that explores the society in the country, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was slightly taken aback – by the abundance of alcohol, drugs, parties and opulence that the book displayed (primary reason behind the Great Gatsby comparison).

It’s the story of Daru, a middle-class man working in a bank, who sees his life fall apart as he is fired from his job, falls in love with his best friend’s wife, starts mixing hash and heroin, and decides to join forces with a corrupt rickshaw driver.

It’s a story about friendship and betrayal, about hypocrisy and violence, about crime and punishment, about corruption and nepotism. While I personally did not sympathize much with Daru, I ended up finding his best friend fairly despicable.

What makes this book different, and an interesting read is how the author brings forth every character’s point of view, by dividing the book into many chapters. Each chapter is narrated by one of the characters of the book, thereby giving us insight into them, their actions, and what motivates them to do some of the things they do.

While the book has an unfair ending, one can’t help but wonder whether Daru deserved better or not.

Overall a 6 on 10, and a good book to read on tube.

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2 Responses to “Mohsin Hamid – Moth Smoke”

  1. Gatsby is one of my favorite books so I am definitely putting this one on my list! Thanks!

    • This is a poor man’s Gatsby though – I spoke to a Pakistani friend of mine about this book, and she did grudgingly admit that it’s an accurate description of the rich and famous there, so… it’s probably worth a read.


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