The Perfect Gentleman by Imran Ahmad – Book Review

The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West by Imran Ahmad
Published by Center Street, an imprint of Hachette

From the publisher:

Both deliciously funny and deeply insightful, THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN is a beguiling multi-layered memoir that has touched the hearts of readers all over the world. At the age of one, Imran Ahmad moved from Pakistan to London, growing up torn between his Islamic identity and his desire to embrace the West. Join Imran in his lifelong struggle against corruption and injustice, and as he grapples with some of Life’s most profound questions. What does God do exactly? Do you automatically go to Hell for following the wrong religion? How do you persuade a beautiful woman to become your girlfriend (and would driving a Jaguar XJS help?) Can you maintain a James Bond persona without the vodka, cigarettes and women – even whilst your parents are trying to arrange your marriage?

Ah, The Perfect Gentleman sounded, well, perfect for me. I pictured a heartfelt memoir of an identity struggle. The structure that Ahmad uses for his memoir stymied me a bit, though. Most of the chapters were formulated to cover a single school year, often with surprisingly specific memories. This creates a narrative that lacked much of the cohesiveness that I expected and hoped for. Often themes are brought up that seem as if they might be important later in Ahmad’s life, but many of them fail to reappear in any significant way, although the very end of The Perfect Gentleman did tie a few things back together.

Ahmad is a good writer, but as occasionally happens with memoir, he and I simply didn’t mesh. The Perfect Gentleman is not the story I hoped for, and Ahmad’s humor doesn’t do much for me – perhaps I don’t do British humor well in print – although others may find his self-deprecating style charming.

I know there is a reader out there perfect for The Perfect Gentleman, but she is not me.

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The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad – Book Review

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
Published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin

In the tribal area between Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, marital fidelity is highly prized, especially in women. When a man and a woman show up at a remote outpost clearly on the run from an angry father or husband they are granted permission to live there for a time, but also told they will be given no protection if a time comes when such protection would be necessary. It is their son who will become Tor Baz, the eponymous “Wandering Falcon.” Tor Baz’s wanderings through this foreboding borderland become the basis for exploring a number of stories of those in the tribal lands.

The Wandering Falcon is a unique book, it would perhaps best be described as a book of linked stories, but unlike other books of linked stories, such as A Visit From the Goon Squad, there is a single character in The Wandering Falcon whose life and exploits tie together the disparate stories in what seems to be chronological order. In this case the form works extremely well by giving a flavor of the variety of experiences in these tribal lands while still having a single unifying thread to keep the reader engaged. Interestingly, Tor Baz’s importance varies from story to story; at times he is so minor that he could almost be missed, at others he is an integral part of the story being told.

Ahmad is uniquely qualified to write a book like The Wandering Falcon. He has worked for many years for the government of Pakistan, mostly in areas of frontier management. The language of The Wandering Falcon is beautiful, particularly for the heart and humanity so evident in the stories being told. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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