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Old Road New Crossings: a novel

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by Shelley Rahman
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Old Road New Crossings: a novel by Shelley Rahman

Malek abandons school and takes to business. He falls in love with a beautiful older woman despite his family's disapproval. Priya, a singer and an academic, faces opposition from her husband at every step. Malek and Priya are brother and sister, very different from each other except for their determination. They are part of a Bengali joint family founded by their father, the rational but trusting Shams. Spanning four decades when their homeland changes from Bengal to East Pakistan and through the Liberation War to Bangladesh, they struggle to build their lives. The shift of people from village to provincial town to capital city as the country develops is depicted as a process through which the joint family structure splits into nuclear families. Shams sees education as the medium his family can prosper by, which notion seems to be born out until the warped and cruel character of his son-in-law undermines his belief. The mother and the eldest daughter-in-law in the family are traditional souls, who are contrasted with daughter Priya and other daughter-in-laws who would like more education, respect and jobs outside the home. While overall the setting is of a middle class Muslim South Asian family with none of the religious angst of the current Middle East, we do have a glimpse of the sectarian violence post-partition with a brother nearly a victim in the notorious train massacres, which is in fact a light hearted moment in the book. Dictatorships and unequal power distribution in the two wings of Pakistan, are touched on, while the fear and disruption of the 1971 Liberation War are dealt with in more detail. From comments by a professional reader through Indepenpress: "...

The story is written in an understated, straightforward, yet lyrical style, creating a strong sense of a Bengali Muslim community through its vivid descriptions of the local landscape of Rajshahi, of food and cooking, homes and transport. The writer clearly has a good feel for language and the work has been well translated, reading easily in English whilst maintaining the language patterns of the original Bengali. The writer succeeds in creating a strong sense of people and places, with vivid descriptions such as: 'There the silvery moon was crumpled on the ripples. A whole net of illusion was created'... 'It was like dropping wet vegetables into hot fat' (to describe the effect of Malek telling his mother about his proposed business venture with Anisa)..." From a review by Eshanul Haque, ex-lecturer of English in Dhaka University, ex-defence secretary of Bangladesh, now working as a translator in the USA. "...flashes of excitement when the children go on bird hunting expeditions or have a game of carrom at a forbidden hour and the grim consequences that follow, or the pranks they play upon unsuspecting street vendors. .....

Characters are deftly drawn. Surprisingly one of the least likeable characters, Barek, Priya's jealous and possessive husband comes out as a truly authentic figure. Malek...... is pugnacious and bit of a bully but honest and hardworking...."

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Ebook Details
Pages: 262
Size: 1.8 MB
Date published:   2014
ISBN: 9781783015511 (EPUB)

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Fiction > Sagas

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