Karachi is Volatile, But London is Bland

Kamila Shamsie’s new novel, “Best of Friends” chosen as a book of 2022 by The Guardian, Observer, Daily Mail and Financial Times

Molly Young’s review in The New York Times: The true horror of puberty isn’t the emergence of surprising hairs and baneful odors but the abrupt arrival of consequences. Physical ones, obviously — like the sudden possibility of getting pregnant or impregnating someone — but also existential consequences. To enter puberty is to discover not only that the stakes have ratcheted up, but that such a thing as “stakes” exist.

Kamila Shamsie’s novel “Best of Friends” begins at this volatile time — and in a volatile location, too: Karachi, 1988. The best friends are Maryam Khan and Zahra Ali. Maryam is intuitive and romantic; Zahra cerebral and skeptical. Both are 14 years old. Both are privileged but only Maryam is super-rich, with private security guarding the family manse and a promise that she will inherit her grandfather’s luxury leather goods business.

Roads are about to fork. Puberty comes to Maryam first. Initially she thinks she has “lost the ability to judge her own dimensions” — like a person hopping into a rental car and immediately severing a side mirror — until she observes that when she accidentally bumps breast-first into strangers, the strangers are always, and suspiciously, men. Zahra experiences her own similar metamorphosis soon after. More here.

GOODREADS on ‘Best of Friends’: A dazzling new novel of friendship, identity and the unknowability of other people – from the international bestselling author: Fourteen-year-old Maryam and Zahra have always been the best of friends, despite their different backgrounds. Maryam takes for granted that she will stay in Karachi and inherit the family business; while Zahra keeps her desires secret, and dreams of escaping abroad. This year, 1988, anything seems possible for the girls; and for Pakistan, emerging from the darkness of dictatorship into a bright future under another young woman, Benazir Bhutto. But a snap decision at a party celebrating the return of democracy brings the girls’ childhoods abruptly to an end. Its consequences will shape their futures in ways they cannot imagine. Three decades later, in London, Zahra and Maryam are still best friends despite living very different lives. But when unwelcome ghosts from their shared past re-enter their world, both women find themselves driven to act in ways that will stretch and twist their bond beyond all recognition.
Best of Friends is a novel about Britain today, about power and how we use it, and about what we owe to those who’ve loved us the longest. ‘A new Kamila Shamsie novel is always worth celebrating, but Best of Friends is something else: an epic story that explores the ties of childhood friendship, the possibility of escape, the way the political world intrudes into the personal, all through the lens of two sharply drawn protagonists’ Observer, Books of the Year 2022.

Honorary contributors to DesPardes: Adil Khan, Ajaz Ahmed, Anwar Abbas, Arif Mirza, Aziz Ahmed, Bawar Tawfik, Dr. Razzak Ladha, Dr. Syed M. Ali, G. R. Baloch, Hasham Saddique, Jamil Usman, Jawed Ahmed, Ishaq Saqi, Khalid Sharif, Majid Ahmed, Masroor Ali, Md. Ahmed, Md. Najibullah, Mustafa Jivanjee, Nusrat Jamshed, Shahbaz Ali, Shahid Hamza, Shahid Nayeem, Syed Ali Ammaar Jafrey, Syed Hamza Gilani, Mushtaq Siddiqui, Shaheer Alam, Syed Hasan Javed, Syed M. Ali, Tahir Sohail, Usman Nazir