Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie

I am not really sure what happens in this book. Maryam and Zahra are friends living in Karachi at that important age of 14 with their friendship played out against a political backdrop of General Zia dying and Benazair coming into power. Apart from one frightening night where they disobey their parents and get into someone’s car that they do not know, nothing happens. Their growing into women and the realisation of the power they can hold over men is explored and described well as is their unbreakable friendship.

Class is depicted well. Both girls belong to a moneyed class in Karachi, Maryam more so and this means they attend a school who believes their reputation must be upheld at all times. There are parts of the city the girls are not allowed to visit and some that they didn’t even know were there. And then there are Hammad and Jimmy who provide the danger and who do not come from the moneyed group. The girls lives are full of videos, music, clothes and for Maryam, servants who must be ordered around.

We then meet them 20 years later in London where they now live, Maryam with her family and parents and Zahra and her parents. They are still friends, just now a little older and they like to walk. Hammad turns up again in a sort of symmetry to the first half of the story but it really doesn’t take the book anywhere.

There are important themes in the book, some of which work well but the second half left me unmoved.

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