Sunjeev Sahota's debut is essentially a fictional 256-page suicide note
3/5 Picador The debut from Sunjeev Sahota is essentially a 256-page suicide note from protagonist Imtiaz, whose diary provides a first-person account of his transition from bored student to suicide bomber. A series of events in his young life paint Imtiaz as uncomfortable with his roots, as he struggles to find his place in British society – perfect fodder for the fundamentalists he meets during a trip to Pakistan following the death of his father.
Flicking between his time in Pakistan and his life in Birmingham, the diary format of the book allows the readers a glimpse into the darkest recesses of Imtiaz’s mind, which descends into paranoia and confusion as the time of his death draws closer.Attempting to explain his decision to die to his wife, young daughter and mother, the narrative touches on some of the poignant moments in Imtiaz’s life leading him into fundamentalism.
However, readers hoping for a definitive answer to the question of what makes someone become a suicide bomber will be disappointed. The seemingly mundane events attributed to Imtiaz’s decision to die are spine-chilling in their normality – essentially the message is that this story could belong to almost anyone.
The first offering from a promising writer, perhaps, but the novel is something of a curate’s egg, leaving the reader unsure whether the failure to excite is a reflection of the dreary plod towards Imtiaz’s demise, or just the result of a dreary plot. Ultimately, where the book falls down is its inability to provide any new information about what is becoming a well-trodden subject.