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WoWasis book review: ‘A Golden Age’: Bangladeshi fiction from Tahmina Anam

Written By: herbrunbridge - May• 17•13

AnamGoldenAgeThe Bangladeshi War of Independence of 1971 forms the backdrop of a plethora of novels from that country, and Tahmina Anam’s A Golden Age (2007, ISBN 978-0-06-14787-1) is no exception. The book won a Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book. It’s a coming of age tale, involving the evolution of a mother from a housewife into a revolutionary.

In essence, Rehana Haque, a widow with two young adult children, is at first cajoled into allowing a house on her property to be used for storing illicit arms. The story morphs into one of increasing involvement, most poignantly involving her caretaking of a revolutionary officer. Rehana’s focus is in trying her best to keep her revolutionary children out of harm’s way, ever more challenging as the battle comes closer to her home.

Like many first novels, this one is somewhat autobiographical. The Harper Perennial paperback edition of this book includes an insightful 12 page postscript, consisting of an interview with the author, who states:

 When I first sat down to write A Golden Age,
I imagined a war novel on an epic scale. I
imagined battle scenes, political rallies, and
the grand sweep of history. But after having
interviewed more than a hundred survivors
of the Bangladesh War for Independence,

I realized it was the very small details that
always stayed in my mind-the guerilla
fighters who exchanged shirts before they
into battle, the women who sewed their best
silk saris into blankets for the refugees. I
realized I wanted to write a novel about how
ordinary people are transformed by war, and
once I discovered this, I turned to the story of

my maternal grandmother, Musleha Islam,
and how she became a revolutionary.

The tale is a fascinating one, a terrific war story concerning the vicissitudes of family life in an unconventional war zone. Buy it here at the WoWasis eStore.

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