Monday, June 01, 2015

Review- City of Spies by Sorayya Khan

Goodreads Summary:

‘God was everywhere, but so was the general.’

It is the summer of 1977 and Pakistan swelters in the unrelenting heat. Weeks after her eleventh birthday, Aliya Shah wakes up to the news that there has been a coup d’état, General Zia has taken over the country and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is in jail. Although the shadow of the general and his increasingly puritanical edicts threaten to disrupt their comfortable existence, life goes on for Aliya much as before as she attends the American School in Islamabad. However, when a much loved young boy, the son of the family retainer, dies tragically in a hit-and-run accident, her world is turned upside down, especially when she discovers the terrible secret of the murderer’s identity.

City of Spies is coming-of-age story that explores Aliya’s conflicting loyalties and her on-going struggle to make sense of her world. Set in late 1970’s Islamabad and Lahore, City of Spies is a gripping novel that unfolds over thirty months in Pakistan’s tumultuous history.


*NOTE: We (The Readdicts) recieved a copy of City of Spies by Sorayya Khan from Rupa Publications in exchange for an honest review. We thank the publishing house for the book! 

I honestly have no idea how I'm going to put down this review, and more importantly, I have no idea what I'm going to put down in this review. All I know is that I'm glad I kept my apprehension, boredom and reluctance aside and decided to ask for a copy of City of Spies, which turned to be exactly the kind of book that I like to read. A book that is brutal, fresh, true and raw. Even though it took me days to start the book and even more days to keep going with it, once I was in it, I was in it. There was no looking back and there was no putting the book down. 

City of Spies is the story of one brave, courageous and smart girl whose father is Pakistani and mother is Dutch. Having stayed in Vienna for so long, Aliya and her family consisting of her parents and her older brother and sister, is forced to go to Pakistan for an electricity and water supply project that her father is to guide in his country. All the characters in this book are very well developed and excellently portrayed. Each one stands out and manages to shine even in the presence of others. But the one person who, I feel, is the star of the book, is the servant of the family, Hanif. Now why is that? That's for the reader to find out. 

Aliya was portrayed as a normal girl who finds herself facing an identity crisis. Although she wants to adapt to the lifestyle of her fellow American or Western classmates, she still appreciates and even prefers her Pakistani specialities and everything else that makes the country incredible in her own right. She goes on to become a journalist and the entire book goes from her point of view in first person where she recounts her time spent in Pakistan as a school going girl between the arrival of the General to the burning of the American Embassy. 

What made City of Spies such an epic read for me was the writing. Author Sorayya Khan has written a book wherein words flow like it's in their nature to just blend and form a prose that's so much like poetry. The writing was crisp, meticulous, spot-on and simply jaw-dropping. I adored every chapter, paragraph, line and word. I was amazed and absolutely mind-blown. The author has written a great book that recounts a lovely story, and that is enough to satisfy me. I don't see any reason why this book doesn't deserve to be read. 



  1. Ooh! I love how diverse this book is and I think that we need more characters who are Middle East origin! So glad to hear that the characterization was spot on for you, Sarika. Also, the spectacular writing is something I'd like to see myself ;) I probably wouldn't ever had heard about this one or thought about reading it, but I'm so glad you have brought this to my attention, lovely! Thanks for sharing <3

  2. Isn't it the most rare and beautiful thing when we find a book where the writing is so beautiful that little else matters? They are rare finds for me. Wonderful review.

  3. Oh lovely review, Sarika :) It's so great that you got so much out of this read and that you're spreading your love for it here! Thanks or putting it on my radar :)

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