Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

What’s it about?

They share a cup of coffee, a smile, an evening meal.  They try not to hear the sound of bombs getting closer every night, the radio announcing new laws, the public executions.

Meanwhile, rumours are spreading of strange black doors in secret places across the city, doors that lead to London or San Francisco, Greece or Dubai.  Someday soon, the time will come for this young couple to seek out one such door: joining the multitudes fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.




My thoughts….which do contain a spoiler

My reviews don’t usually contain spoilers, but this book made me feel so frustrated, that I needed to vent.  So if you’re planning on reading this book – skip to the end!  Although what I’m going to rant about is alluded to in the blurb so not a huge spoiler to be fair.

This was our latest book club read and one which I was looking forward too.  The blurb I’d read in our meeting was a little different to the one above so I believed I would be getting a serious hard-hitting portrayal of what it’s like to be a refugee/migrant/immigrant told through a love story.

For the first third of the book, this is was I got.  Saeed and Nadia’s budding relationship against the backdrop of a war-torn unnamed city – could have been Iraq, Syria, Beirut any of these middle-eastern countries.  You begin to appreciate the difficulties they faced in order to see each other; dodging bombs and gunfire, drones, rebel soldiers and curfews.  At this point I was really feeling this book and empathising with the characters.

And then, do you know what!?

The author chucked in the most ridiculous fantastical plot thread which ruined it for me!  Doors!

Even up to the point where these doors were introduced and the couple were paying a ‘trafficker‘ I was with them, hoping they’d find refuge and sanctuary.  I was so frustrated with this that I wanted to throw the book out of the window.  Look at the cover of this book, do you think you’re getting a book with fantastical elements?  Why?  Just why?  I would have loved to have read about their journey, the same real journey that hundreds of refugees are taking on a regular basis.  But no, they were pushed through a door and out they popped in Greece, just like Mr Benn or Sully and Mike in Monsters Inc……. laughable!

Joking aside, I get that these doors were a way of providing passage without the need for description but I was so disappointed!

That said, I did like the way in which the book was written though.  The short sentences, often written in comparison, it’s like the author had a word limit and so there were no over-used words.

“Saeed watched them with his parents from their balcony.  Nadia watched them from her rooftop, alone.”

In our book club meeting the others who’d read it felt the same, and between us our average rating was 2*.  It just didn’t work for us.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Facebook | Website

Small print for info
Source: Library
No of pages: 229
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (Penguin)

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

  1. luvtoread says:

    I didn’t care for this book at all! There wasn’t any dialog, I didn’t connect to the characters, and I agree with you about the magical realism thrown in – it just didn’t fit for me. I did know about the magical realism before I started the book, and was only able to push through and finish the book because it was so short. I’m so puzzled why this was such a heavily recommended read. I didn’t get it!


  2. booksandbakes1 says:

    I’ve just finished reading it! I actually quite liked it but found it quite sad really. I think I’m the only one who has liked it! It’s just so realistic and close to the bone. Maybe I’m wrong??


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