Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Beautiful From this Angle

We have read some interesting debut books written by authors from across the border. HT Brunch had a very interesting cover story about writers from Pakistan. Here’s the link . So Maha Khan Phillips’ debut book Beautiful from this Angle was in the must read list!

The basic premise of the book is of three school friends and BFF who are as different from each other as can be! Amynah Farooqui is a columnist who writes an anonymous gossip column about Karachi’s page 3 crowd and exposes the life of drugs, sex, alcohol, sleaze of these very people. Totally opposite to her are her two friends Mumtaz who is a drug baron’s daughter and Henna who is a leading politician’s daughter. Amynah herself is totally unapologetic about her own life of casual sex, booze and drugs. Maybe if the author would have concentrated on this angle this book would have been a super read. Honestly the book was unputdownable till the story was busy exposing the uncovered truths of Karachi.  But the story is not about the swish set there is more to come.

When Monty Mohsin, another page 3 regular starts raking in the moolah producing a reality TV show called Who Wants to be a terrorist? (An attempt at satire as to how the western media wants to portray a one-sided view of Pakistan) Mumtaz decides to cash in on the trend of Pakistan bashing by making a documentary on violence against women in Pakistan. She manages to pull in her other two reluctant friends too in the plan. Amynah manages to find in Nilofer (Henna’s childhood friend from the village) a perfect subject for the documentary. Things starts going haywire as soon as filming begins, it becomes obvious that each of them has their own agenda including Nilofer, who is not as helpless and innocent as she claims to be. The stress of the project, the pressure from Henna’s dad, draws the friends apart leading to a heartbreaking end.  

The book could have been a very interesting and compelling read only if the author would have stuck to one story rather than multiple sub plots. In the end the book comes across as a mish mash of Karachi’s swish set, fundamentalists and feudalists leaving the reader very confused, unfortunately.

The book, though, manages to successfully give us a peek into the contemporary Pakistan and also attempts to debunk a lot of media created myths about the country.

About the Author:

Maha Khan Phillips was born in Karachi in 1976, and attended Karachi American School. She moved to London in 1994 where she works as a financial journalist. She has a BA in politics and International Relations and an MA in International conflict analysis from the University of Kent at Canterbury. In 2006, she graduated with a first class degree from City University London’s inaugural MA in creative writing programme. T he novel was written on that course. Maha is married and has one son. She divides her time between London and Karachi, and is the author of The Mystery of the Aagnee Ruby.

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