Book Review – The Buddha of Suburbia

by Hanif Kureishi

Started: 4th March 2015

Finished: 4th March 2015

This novel was very different from the other two on my Postcolonial Fictions module. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it was a nice surprise and a much easier read.

The novel follows Karim Amir from the age of 17 when things begin to change in his life. His family life is breaking up; he’s disillusioned with his identity and is confused by his love for his best friend.

Although I didn’t really like Karim, I did find him a very interesting character. He has some funny lines and fascinating takes on things. His constant internal conflict (although the issues he’s conflicted on changes) are also really interesting and makes him a deeper character. I really like his interactions with other characters too. I don’t think any of the characters are particularly likeable for the whole novel but they (or at least some) do have their moments. I found there were some characters (such as Eva and Charlie) who became less and less likeable towards the end of the novel. When you find out what they’re really like. I think my favourite character is Jamila (or ‘Jammie’). I found her family life really intriguing and sad and was fascinated by her attitude towards everything. However we didn’t see as much of her as I hoped to, especially towards the end.

As I mentioned this novel is an easy read, I read it in a couple of hours. The writing really captured my interest (for the most part) and had, for the most part, a good pace to it. Not a great deal happens in terms of complex/deep plot but there are enough events (both new and recurring) to keep the story moving. Which, funnily enough, makes you feel like a lot more things happen over the period of time the novel is set. This novel is, apparently, very humorous. I can see it to an extent and makes some shocking scenes easier to read, but it wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny. There were also some moments where the novel felt a bit repeated and some parts felt a little drawn out.

I did enjoy how the story focused on just the one protagonist, however when he wasn’t really likeable it was difficult to get into. It also wasn’t very clear on how much time had passed which was a little frustrating at times as you don’t know if certain things are happening too quickly or slowly. What did help, however, was the fact this novel was split into two parts “In the Suburbs” and “In the City.” This helped track the progress of the story and clearly illustrated the changes in the novel. They’re split fairly evenly too, however I would have liked to have seen more of Karim in the city. The ending had more meaning as I had read it after the lecture, if I had read it before I would have missed the significance and it wouldn’t have had the same effect.

Overall this was a refreshing read for this module and made me consider things from a different perspective. It’s definitely a novel I’ll look more into however I feel more could have been done with it, and would possibly be better as a longer novel.

Rating: 3.5/5

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