A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir
|A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A perfectly-pitched look at the life of a man British man with Pakistani roots and family. I became so completely involved in their lives that I read the book in less than 24 hours. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: February 2012|
Harris Anwar is truly a man who is split between two worlds. He's a British Pakistani, proud of his Eastern roots, but when he came to the UK he changed his name from Haaris - with a long, flat vowel - to the more acceptable Harris and his clothing was that favoured by an English gentleman. He's proud and he would say many reasons to be proud. Some of the things of which he's proud are relatively small - the vacuum cleaner which he's had for twenty years might not work particularly well, but he's proud that he's hung on to it. He's proud of his car, the central heating which he installed himself and most of all he's proud of his daughter.
Alia is - well, to the best of her father's knowledge - a medical student in London. But a year earlier her parents had divorced. It was traumatic for Harris but it left Alia feeling at sea and she failed some of her exams. She's not certain that she wants to continue with the course but she's not mentioned this to Harris - even when they spent the summer together in Pakistan. There's another problem too. Alia's rather more liberated than most girls of Pakistani descent - and her father isn't. Nor is the cousin he asks to 'keep an eye on her'. Harris has a Muslim sense of responsibility, of what is right and what he must do for others.
It was the money which Harris received as his divorce settlement which caused all the trouble. There were so many calls on the £50,000, so many family members who could have better lives, even ways in which Harris could be less lonely, but what he does do with the money causes untold problems.
Do you know the sort of book which you pick up and you're immediately drawn in? It's not just the story, it's the people too. I felt that I knew all of them. They could have been stereotypes - the cousin who takes advantage of Harris but who is ultimately worried about his reputation when he becomes a councillor, the estate agent with a Jewish background who has trouble selling to the Asian community or the naive young man who finds himself drawn into extremism against his wishes and without his knowledge or assent.
Rosie Dastgir is particularly good at showing the ways in which people are manipulated. It's subtle: the extremist preacher who seems like such a good friend to the lonely and uncertain Rashid, to the cousin who inveigles money out of Harris or the Pakistani family who expect that Harris will help, with little regard for whether he can or not. It's masterly and very, very cleverly done. The locations too are a treat - the northern town with the disused textile mill where only the pigeons seem to be dong really well, the east end of London and Pakistan with its stark beauty and dreadful contrasts between rich and poor. There's a real sense of layers of history as people have come and gone, each making the best they could whilst they were there. It's exquisite.
It's a book to read and then reread. Even a brief look back at the earlier chapters revealed a little more to think about and I had to consciously stop myself delving even deeper. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. IUf this book appeals then we think you might enjoy the non-fiction Greetings From Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor or the fictional Brick Lane by Monica Ali.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Small Fortune by Rosie Dastgir at Amazon.com.
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