Exit West

Exit West: A Novel
By Mohsin Hamid

This is truly a beautiful book that deserves its coveted spot on the 2017 Man Booker shortlist. Mohsin Hamid's perfectly-crafted, flowing sentences tell the moving story of two young lovers, Nadia and Saeed, who flee from their unnamed city when the militants wrestle control from the local government.

Through a series of doors, the displaced couple moves from location to location, looking for a new place to settle - from Mykonos to London to San Francisco. The figurative use of doors was reminiscent of C.S. Lewis' ordinary wardrobe that leads to the magical world of Narnia - but as well as that, it allowed this novel to highlight the sudden shock of migrants who find themselves in new, unfamiliar and often unplanned places, rather than the torturous journeys of overcrowded boats and drownings at sea.

The novel beautifully illustrates the plight of refugees, at a time when the news is full of such stories. It's a very modern novel, with references to social media, drones and online connectivity.

In fact, the story is set in the near future, and describes London as having "a dense zone of migrants in Kensington and Chelsea and in the adjacent parks, and around this zone were soliders and armoured vehicles, and above it were drones and helicopters." Fights break out between the "natives and the migrants" with violent shootings and stabbings, and electricity blackouts across the city.

At the centre of all this chaos is the unraveling of the relationship between Saeed and Nadia - they're simultaneously dependent on one another, while living increasingly independent lives. Hamid's depiction of their relationships is one of the highlights of this novel - so perceptive and honest, and vividly described. I re-read many sentences, appreciating his choice of words and the way he'd put them together.

Given the story spans more than 50 years and 4 countries, it's a relatively short novel and a very easy read. This is definitely a novel you should add to your 'must-read' list - and I have my fingers crossed that it wins the Man Booker prize this year.