This book was pitched as a dark dystopia, which is why I jumped right up when it came for review.
However, I would not really term this book as dystopian in any way, it’s more like a satirical look at past events along the lines of A Case of Exploding Mangoes.
This book is based in Bangladesh just after the country fought and won its independence from Pakistan. The early optimism quickly gives way to anger and unrest on the heels of terrible famine and droughts.
You can learn more about this time in history on Wikipedia here.
In this setup, Khaleque Biswas is a journalist and a big supporter of the freedom movement. However, once Bangladesh becomes independent he becomes disillusioned with Sheik Mujib’s governance – the corruption, the indifference to public suffering, and the lack of governmental ethics or transparency.
He voices his opinion a little too freely as a result of which he loses his job and finds himself in dire straits. When he meets Nur Hussain a man who is able to imitate Sheik Mujib’s speeches, he realizes this could be his way out of his poverty.
Together the two of them make a small living delivering Sheik Mujib’s speeches in public. However, once they attract Sheik Mujib’s interest and start making big money there is trouble in paradise as both the men try to balance their work with their conscience.
But what does the book title mean?
The book title sounded weird to me, but I realized once I started reading how apt it is for the book.
Apparently, Sheik Mujib was famous for his black coat that he used to wear all the time, and it in fact started a fashion trend where most people wore this style of black coat to show their support for him.
Here is an image of the man in his black coat.
It looks nothing much, doesn’t it? However, it plays a big part in the book thematically speaking.
This book is a deceptively simple read. I use the word deceptive as the language is very simple and the story format is straight-forward. It’s only once you get to the second half of the book that you realize the change in the tone. It turns dark subtly, very subtly, and before you know it, you realize that what you knew or thought you knew about the two men is going to be turned upside down.
It is a very in-depth psychological study of what can happen when men turn their backs on their ideals in the guise of thinking practically and shows the development of a man from a regular dude into a psychopath.
This is also the first book I am reading that is from the viewpoint of a man who is abusing another man, and it was chilling to read the ways in which he justifies his mad rages and cruel behavior.
In terms of story, the book is slow and in places repetitive. However, this is a minor negative and overall I recommend this book for the insights it provides into a little documented period in Bangladeshi history.
Huge thanks to Bookgeeks for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
You can also purchase a copy of this book (in ebook format) from Amazon.