The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad

An investigation into eleven year old Sonia’s death haunts policeman Faraz Ali. As a sex worker, she lived in the Mohalla district and whenever Ali visits he has small flashbacks to a time when he was very young and living in the same place. This is a complex plot which jumps backwards and forwards, from the 1930s to the 1970s and with a changing focus from Ali’s father, Wajid, to Ali and to his life, with the thread of bringing Sonia’s killer to justice running throughout but not taking a straight line.

Taking place during this time is the fight for a free Bangladesh where Ali is viewed as an occupier. Back at home is his sister, Rozina, an aging sex worker worried about money and her daughter and keeping her out of prostitution.

We also have Ali’s failing arranged marriage, political machinations and a man constantly looking for his family. It’s a book that weaves many things together – loss and longing being the most dominant threads.

. . . because what was loss but the condition of a woman’s life.


It’s also a book about parents and children, in particular, and their loves and losses with Ahmad often contrasting the two, as for example, when Ali considers his marriage and then the love he has for his daughter.

I found the middle section a little slow-going but stopped myself from jumping over it. Although the book has the feel of a detective story, it is just the vehicle to study class and separation and the fact that where and when we were born can have a lasting impact on us.

The returns that Faraz Ali make are many:

  • to Pakistan after trying to prevent a free Bangladesh
  • to Mohallah where he came from
  • to his family
  • to his father and his step-brother
  • and most of all, to himself.

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