A mesmerising Christmas gift for Kamila Shamsie fans
** SHORTLISTED FOR THE INDIE BOOK AWARDS 2023 ** CHOSEN AS A BEST BOOK OF 2022 BY THE GUARDIAN, OBSERVER, DAILY MAIL, FINANCIAL TIMES AND IRISH TIMES **
'A profound novel about friendship. I loved it to pieces' - Madeline Miller
'A shining tour de force' - Ali Smith, Guardian Summer Reading
'An intimate study of the ties that bind us' - Stylist
A dazzling new novel of friendship, identity and the unknowability of other people - from the international bestselling author of Home Fire, winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction
Sometimes it was as though the forty years of friendship between them was just a lesson in the unknowability of other people…
Maryam and Zahra.
In 1988 Karachi, two fourteen-year-old girls are a decade into their friendship, sharing in-jokes, secrets and a love for George Michael. As Pakistan's dictatorship falls and a woman comes to power, the world suddenly seems full of possibilities. Elated by the change in the air, they make a snap decision at a party. That night, everything goes wrong, and the two girls are powerless to change the outcome.
Zahra and Maryam.
In present-day London, two influential women remain bound together by loyalties, disloyalties, and the memory of that night, which echoes through the present in unexpected ways. Now both have power; and both have very different ideas of how to wield it… Their friendship has always felt unbreakable; can it be undone by one decision?
'A new Kamila Shamsie novel is always worth celebrating, but Best of Friends is something else: an epic story that explores the ties of childhood friendship, the possibility of escape, the way the political world intrudes into the personal, all through the lens of two sharply drawn protagonists' - Observer, Books of the Year 2022
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Pakistani British novelist Kamila Shamsie follows her international breakthrough, Home Fire, with a thoughtful examination of female friendship in a repressive culture, exploring how class and politics can strain even the strongest relationships. In Karachi, Pakistan, in 1988, 14-year-olds Zahra and Maryam are lifelong BFFs, despite wealthy Maryam’s future as the head of her family business being assured while the bookish, middle-class Zahra has to fight for any possible advantage. Then one night, an impulsive act of teenage rebellion ends in an incident that changes their lives forever. Thirty years later in London, the women face down not only what happened that night but how their equally successful but politically divergent paths could potentially destroy a decades-long bond. Shamsie writes for the senses, whether the setting is a rundown chip shop or the country home of England’s prime minister, and she has an unerring ear for how men and women can speak differently—even when they’re speaking about the same thing. Both thoughtful and exciting, this is a novel worth savouring.
Shamsie follows her Women's Prize–winning Home Fire with a nuanced meditation on a lifelong friendship. In 1988 Karachi, best friends Zahra and Maryam, both 14, come of age in the last days of the Zia dictatorship. Zahra is bookish and middle class, while Maryam is worldlier and wealthier. One night they make an impulsive decision to get into a stranger's car with their classmate Hammad. The girls have differing perspectives on what happened next, and Shamsie hints that there was danger. Then, after Benazir Bhutto is elected Prime Minister, the girls are swept up in the country's wave of elation. The second half is set in 2019 London, where Zahra is head of the Center for Civil Liberties and Maryam is a venture capitalist. Their circumstances may have changed dramatically, but their friendship remains strong until the surprise reappearance of Hammad, who dredges up the fallout from that night in the car 30 years earlier. Though the revelations aren't that surprising, Shamsie is perceptive when it comes to picking apart the nuances of the women's shifting dynamic. It's not the author's best, but it shows her to be a consistently thoughtful writer.
Really enjoyed the book (most of it)
Spoilers! Great prose that makes it very easy to imagine the world that the protagonists inhabit, but I think that the ending was very abrupt and random. It feels hastily finished.
A good beginning and end, lost a bit in the middle.