A Golden Age, a story so powerful and heart-rending that takes you back to the real account of 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War through the experiences of Rehana Haque and her family.
There was a reason why I picked up the Bangladesh series for my June #TBR, and the reason was pretty simple, to know more about a country and it’s genocide that I have only heard from my father. And now when I am done with the first book of the series, A Golden Age, I am really glad of my decision.
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam follows the story of Haque family, who reside in Bangladesh peacefully with their neighbors and other beings. The story opens with Rehana Haque, who has lost her husband Iqbal to a heart attack, and is now fighting for custody of her children from her barren sister in law, Parveen and her husband, Faiz. And then, a swift jump into the Bangladesh of 1971, when elections were held and Mujib was to be sworn in as Prime Minister. And delay after delay, a day comes when Mujib is deported to another country so that West Pakistan military can take over Bangladesh and start the ethnic cleansing, also known as the Operation Searchlight.
Rehana and her children, Sohail and Maya get trapped into the war. Surprisingly, willingly. Sohail and Maya both were into student politics during their college days, Sohail taking inspiration from political leaders and poetry, and Maya dressing up in white sari always, marching and practicing with wooden guns with her classmates. Operation Searchlight doesn’t make them run away to another place, it makes them stay and fight against the dictatorship and massacre taking place in their country. Sohail gets into a training camp for guerrillas, and Maya starts working with a newspaper publishing revolutionary articles in Calcutta. Rehana, on the other hand, maintains that she is not a nationalist, gets dragged into the passion for Liberation of Bangladesh, partly because of worry for her kids, and partly because of the consequences of war that she witnessed. She throws open doors of her property Shona to other guerrillas and Sohail’s friends, so that they can make strategies against the military and hide ammunition, medicines and clothes. And in the middle of this chaos, Rehana finds love again, only to lose it too soon.
A Golden Age is a novel that might prove to be an important part of the history of Bangladesh. And what better way to show tragedies of war via a family, a human touch that explains the consequences in a much better way. Writing such a piece may prove to be tricky, but then Tahmima Anam pulls it off really well. There was no moment which made me give up on the book, thanks to the twists and turns that kept me hooked. From the moment Sohail steps out of his home to become a guerrilla in Liberation Army to Maya’s breakdown when she hears about her best friend Sharmeen being raped and killed by Pakistani Army, A Golden Age will leave you wanting for more. You will love the characters, especially Rehana and her bold choices, which are really unlikely for a mother who is living in a war-torn country with her children.
Some of the details in the Golden Age are really brutal and eye-opening. We all may know about the genocide in Bangladesh, but then we don’t now the details. And when you read A Golden Age and come across details, you are left stunned. Also, there is a moment in the story when there is a bit of stagnation. And then suddenly, A Golden Age for Rehana returns when she finds love again.
The climax was totally unexpected, and when I read it, I simply closed the book and my eyes for thirty-forty minutes, devouring into Rehana’s character and the choice she made.
A Golden Age is a promising debut, and I for one simply can’t wait to devour into the next two books. As for my fellow readers, If you want a fictional taste of the history of Bangladesh, A Golden Age might prove to be a good choice.