The horrors of the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh are little known in America, but the scale of mass killings and rape carried out by the West Pakistani army against Bengalis compete with the Jewish Holocaust as one of the most concentrated acts of genocide in the 20th century. Tahmima Anam's novel The Golden Age is one of the first, in English, to tackle these bloody nine months. Told richly and suspensefully, Anam's book follows the widower Rehana Haque, whose love for her children and her country lead to acts of shocking heroism. Through Haque-who is mostly confined to her beloved house during the war-Anam doesn't peer directly into the mass graves, whose pictures most characterize this period. Instead, the focus is on Hague's effort to control the daily moments of her life: cooking and fretting over her children who have joined the resistance. As much as I'm thrilled to have a book on this untold moment in South Asian history, I wish Anam would have stepped further outside the home space and told some of the grittier parts of this story first hand, but it's still a moving and entertaining read.
A Golden Age
A GOLDEN AGE Tahmima Anam (John Murray Publishers)