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Book Reviews

Book Name : The Bones of Grace

Author Name : Tahmima Anam

Published By : HarperCollins


‘The Bones of Grace’ is the third book of Tahmima Anam’s Bangladesh trilogy, the earlier two being ‘The Golden Age’ and ‘The Good Muslim’ which were damn good reads. The book tells the story of Zubaida, Maya’s daughter and Rehana’s granddaughter, the protagonists from the ‘The Golden Age’ and ‘The Good Muslim’. To start with, the trilogy is the story of Bangladesh told from the point of view of three generations of women from the same family. Moreover, Anam has a very well written plot. The earlier two books of the trilogy dealt with thematic issues like war and religious conflict but as a departure ‘The Bones of Grace’ is more intimate and personal, it is about Zubaida’s self-realization and embracing her own identity.

 

Zubaida represents a new generation of Bangladeshi youngsters with a sense of confusion about their identity. This is unlike her adoptive parents who were revolutionaries, with a strong sense of patriotism and identity. Zubaida is partly based on Anam herself as she is daughter of revolutionaries and as she grew up outside Bangladesh with little direct connection to the country of her origin. One interesting plot in the novel is where Zubaida goes to Pakistan to uncover the remains of Ambulocetus natans, known as the ancestors of whales. Ambulocetus natans were able to live both on land and in water, which proves to be an excellent metaphor for Zubaida’s situation for like the Ambulocetus she considered herself both amphibian and mammal, read- as someone who moves across borders and regions with ease.

 

‘The Bones of Grace’ is also about the love story of Zubaida, first she falls in love with Elijah Strong, who comes from a model American family, where as Zubaida’s adoptive family is an old wealthy family in Dhaka. However, as fate would have it she has to move to her hometown, and due to societal pressures, she marries her childhood friend and begins to settle into a traditional Bangladeshi life. Nevertheless, there is another twist when she meets Anwar, a ship breaker, this happens when Zubaida decides to help make a documentary film on the ship breaking beaches in Chittagong. From here, Zubaida makes a choice from which she will not turn back. Interesting, yes, read it to find out more. 

 

Anam’s novels have a lot of history in them. History has a huge role in the lives of all her characters for example directly in the case of Rehana and Maya or indirectly like in the life of Zubaida, who inherits history from her parents unlike them who live through it. Anam shows us beautifully how for the present generation from relatively younger nations it is almost impossible to shy away from history. The Bangladesh War has been something Anam had heard since she was born, so it was no surprise when it became the central point of her novels. Equally important is another space that Anam writes about and that is the family. The family provides the emotional space for her characters to grow and breathe in. After all are not family spaces where larger historical and political issues have had an influence on ordinary people’s lives.

 

Readers who read Anam’s trilogy will feel they know a little bit of Bangladesh’s history which is definitely more complicated and have a more pronounced expression than news reports. Anam must be acknowledged to bring unknown news stories and drab historical facts to life. Her novels give a composite understanding of the world. Her novels are a take of the younger generation which she represents about the country of her origin. Anam’s novel is beautifully laced with intricate plots, history, war, family drama, and personal identity, a compelling read indeed.‘The Bones of Grace’ is the third book of Tahmima Anam’s Bangladesh trilogy, the earlier two being ‘The Golden Age’ and ‘The Good Muslim’ which were damn good reads. The book tells the story of Zubaida, Maya’s daughter and Rehana’s granddaughter, the protagonists from the ‘The Golden Age’ and ‘The Good Muslim’. To start with, the trilogy is the story of Bangladesh told from the point of view of three generations of women from the same family. Moreover, Anam has a very well written plot. The earlier two books of the trilogy dealt with thematic issues like war and religious conflict but as a departure ‘The Bones of Grace’ is more intimate and personal, it is about Zubaida’s self-realization and embracing her own identity.

 

Zubaida represents a new generation of Bangladeshi youngsters with a sense of confusion about their identity. This is unlike her adoptive parents who were revolutionaries, with a strong sense of patriotism and identity. Zubaida is partly based on Anam herself as she is daughter of revolutionaries and as she grew up outside Bangladesh with little direct connection to the country of her origin. One interesting plot in the novel is where Zubaida goes to Pakistan to uncover the remains of Ambulocetus natans, known as the ancestors of whales. Ambulocetus natans were able to live both on land and in water, which proves to be an excellent metaphor for Zubaida’s situation for like the Ambulocetus she considered herself both amphibian and mammal, read- as someone who moves across borders and regions with ease.

 

‘The Bones of Grace’ is also about the love story of Zubaida, first she falls in love with Elijah Strong, who comes from a model American family, where as Zubaida’s adoptive family is an old wealthy family in Dhaka. However, as fate would have it she has to move to her hometown, and due to societal pressures, she marries her childhood friend and begins to settle into a traditional Bangladeshi life. Nevertheless, there is another twist when she meets Anwar, a ship breaker, this happens when Zubaida decides to help make a documentary film on the ship breaking beaches in Chittagong. From here, Zubaida makes a choice from which she will not turn back. Interesting, yes, read it to find out more. 

 

Anam’s novels have a lot of history in them. History has a huge role in the lives of all her characters for example directly in the case of Rehana and Maya or indirectly like in the life of Zubaida, who inherits history from her parents unlike them who live through it. Anam shows us beautifully how for the present generation from relatively younger nations it is almost impossible to shy away from history. The Bangladesh War has been something Anam had heard since she was born, so it was no surprise when it became the central point of her novels. Equally important is another space that Anam writes about and that is the family. The family provides the emotional space for her characters to grow and breathe in. After all are not family spaces where larger historical and political issues have had an influence on ordinary people’s lives.

 

Readers who read Anam’s trilogy will feel they know a little bit of Bangladesh’s history which is definitely more complicated and have a more pronounced expression than news reports. Anam must be acknowledged to bring unknown news stories and drab historical facts to life. Her novels give a composite understanding of the world. Her novels are a take of the younger generation which she represents about the country of her origin. Anam’s novel is beautifully laced with intricate plots, history, war, family drama, and personal identity, a compelling read indeed. 

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