title: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia [support an independent bookseller and buy at Strand]
by: Mohsin Hamid
genre: literary fiction
source: I received an advanced reader’s copy from Penguin via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is the latest offering from novelist Mohsin Hamid, acclaimed author of Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (which will soon be a major motion picture). The story follows a nameless narrator and each chapter is a different era in his life, as he goes from a poor rural child to bottled water magnate, loosely utilizing the structure of a “how to/self-help” book to kick off each chapter. Normally, if not well executed, I might find a construct like that to be schticky…not this time. Business self-help books are all the rage in Asia today, and Hamid makes the construct work for him, not vice versa. It really adds to the depth of the narrative.
(Funny story: a few months ago, I was in Hudson Booksellers in Penn Station waiting for a train and noticed this book misshelved in the “Nonfiction New Releases” section. I saw a few people pick it up, read the back and look super intrigued. Not sure if that was an intentional marketing strategy by Riverhead, or an accident on the part of Hudson, but people were definitely spending more than the average few seconds with the book…)
The writing itself is neat and tight, as the thrust of the book is the journey of this nameless narrator set against the ever-evolving landscape of the also nameless city. It’s a quick read, but that’s due to the pace of the narrative; the author propels his characters forward in a world that’s changing just as quickly. I usually like more complex prose, but this book was so much more about the characters and the arc of their lives, that the writing would have felt cluttered if any more was added in terms of description, etc. The tightness of the writing added to the forward thrust, almost as if it were making the narrative more aerodynamic. Really well done.
I really liked this book. I thought the character of the narrator was particularly complex and compelling. He was incredibly dynamic and thoroughly well-developed by Hamid. If you want a good read for your commute, definitely pick this up (or download it to your Kindle, as seems to be becoming the way of New Yorkers).