As someone who is fascinated by free-flowing sentences and is fascinated even more when broad-strokes are done well, what I wish to say, having finished this novella that has been marketed as a full-fledged novel, but which in actuality is a short story masquerading as a novella in the first place, that is if I am to keep it short, which in this case would be sadly but surely befitting, is this-
Viewed from a literary eye, and nothing more, Exit West works remarkably well.
This is another exceptional experiment by Hamid in dabbling with a radical style of writing that is somewhat in line with the progression he has demonstrated over the previous three books authored by him, namely, Moth Smoke- a dream debut that is still conventional and hence more detailed in its telling, The Reluctant Fundamentalist- his Booker shortlisted second outing in which Hamid began to show clear signs of veering towards a minimalist approach in storytelling, and finally How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia- his third, through which, if you are to ask my opinion I will tell you, he showed the world how to write a perfect novella that did not have a single word in it that wasn't required.
However- and now we come to the unfortunate part, the part I would never have wished to write about an author who has become a silent mentor to me in some truly dark times both in my personal life and my life as a budding penman- once the literary eye is shed, once the monocle that relishes uniqueness of style over all else is removed, Exit West is an ordinary, weak tale lacking depth in both character and plot development.
The themes the novella deals with, emigration and the dynamics of modern-day love being the primary two, are most relevant in today's times, and much as I would like to focus just on the latter which Hamid does get right, it is the former that should have been dealt with better, and if possible with greater clarity, given the urgency to understand the real-life emigration crises clearly overshadowing the need to understand the dynamics of modern-day love, both in the context of this story and otherwise.
To conclude, as with his other works, the author found atleast two different ways to make me love his book. And I will admit, there is a lot to like and love in Exit West.
Alas, in many other, equally relevant ways, I was left sorely disappointed.
Here's to hoping that Hamid rewinds, resets or atleast recovers a part of his original writing style that had the power to move mountains but at the same time considered it important to actually show the mountains being fucking moved instead of glossing over all the details.
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