“The Runaways” by Fatima Bhutto

Thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

I seem to be reading a lot of novels with multiple points of view lately so…here’s another one. The Runaways follows three members of the Pakistani community. Anita Rose, a resident of the Karachi slums, Monty, a jet setting rich kid and Sunny a second generation immigrant living in England. Unlike a number of multiple points of view novels I’ve read recently, the different points of view are distinct and I never had to force myself to remember who I was reading about. Similarly to other novels of this type, one character voice was stronger than that of the others, in this case that of Anita.

The novel is written in a modern, energetic style and there are lots of references to current events as well as a clever use of popular culture references. I usually think these age a novel horribly, but they worked really well in this book to set things in context and they give the novel a real sense of time and place.

Some of the themes explored in this novel include the difficulties and sense of disconnect of those who live between different cultures, inter-generational tension, sexual identity and Islamic radicalisation. Many of these themes are topical in the contemporary sense but it was a little disappointing that a novel about young Muslims devoted so much of its storyline to Islamic radicalisation.

When I first started reading this book I immediately felt it was a 5 star novel. As events started creeping towards the half way mark however, things ground to a halt and never really picked up again. Most of the chapters that take place in the desert really dragged for me and I yearned for flashbacks or a different character’s chapter. There are also some extremely disturbing events that occur in the desert chapters too. If you’re a dog lover maybe skip that part when you come to it.

I really enjoyed Anita’s chapters and the parts of the novel that took place in Karachi. The buzz and chaos of the city was perfectly captured and it was refreshing to see a modern, diverse take on young Pakistani lives captured. Things took a nosedive for me when the setting moved to the desert and I just wasn’t able to connect with it as much as I had at the start. Overall this is a well written, thought-provoking book but I couldn’t see past some of the issues I had with it to truly love it.

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