The Cloud Messenger by Aamer Hussein

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The Cloud Messenger by Aamer Hussein

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: An interesting, melancholy story, mixed in with splashes of poetry.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 174 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Telegram Books
ISBN: 978-1846590894

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Mehran, growing up in Karachi, hears his father and sister speaking about London all the time, as if it were an exotic location. He ends up living there as an adult, but in the rainy, dreary climate he turns back to the poetry of his homeland, dreaming of other places. As he travels between Italy, India, Pakistan and London we watch his relationships grow and die and wonder if he will ever truly find a place where he'll feel that he belongs.

I very much enjoyed the beginning of this novel. Mehran is growing up in Karachi, but his mother yearns for the lush greenery of her own childhood in Indore, taking her family there sometimes to soak up this alternative life as well as making visits to Bombay. Mehran becomes a great reader and is able to speak different languages, but already from childhood he has a confused sense of belonging. I found this part of the story interesting and well written, intrigued to read more of a country I don't really know very much about. The novel is divided into six parts, and in part 3 the focus changes to first person so Mehran tells us of his life himself. At this point he is living in London and studying Persian poetry so there is more discussion of various poets, poetry and translation. This is when Mehran begins his friendship with Marco, and also with Riccarda.

Towards the end of part 3 the format changes again and several years of Mehran's life are suddenly dealt with in one paragraph chapters. Part 4 goes back to a narrator format, part 5 is back to Mehran speaking and the final section is once again narrated. As well as all these changes in narrative and brief chapters there are segments of poetry thrown in here and there too. It felt, to me, quite jumbled - something which might put off some readers. It's interesting to see the different formats he uses in his writing, but I felt it interrupted the flow of the story somewhat. The breaks in narrative did give me convenient 'stopping points' in my reading, so it was an easy book to pick up and put down. But it did feel, at times, as if it was a short story which had been stretched and squeezed, with bits tagged onto it here and there, or alternatively it was an epic novel (considering that it covers most of Mehran's life) that had been condensed, distilled.

My real issue with the story though was that I didn't like Mehran. His character annoyed me. I felt he was direction-less and that his relationships were doomed to failure from the start. I'm not very good with books when I don't like the protagonist. If I don't care what happens to the character then the book tends to fall flat for me. Mehran seemed so ineffectual, tagging along after Riccarda, then I felt like he was using Marco, and his relationship with Marvi was destined for tragedy too. If a character is reformed in some way at the end then I don't mind so much, but although I enjoyed reading of Mehran's childhood at the start of the book I felt that as a person he went downhill from there! I think if I had understood him more, known what he actually wanted in his life instead of feeling that he was somehow bumbling through the years helplessly then that might have helped.

As I said, this is a personal feeling when it comes to stories, and if you don't mind reading about someone that you might not much like then you should give this book a try! I enjoyed reading the poetry, and even though I didn't like Mehran his life story did at least make for rather interesting, melancholy reading.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion:

You might also enjoy reading: Greetings From Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor.

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Buy The Cloud Messenger by Aamer Hussein at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Cloud Messenger by Aamer Hussein at


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