My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Season of the Rainbirds was Nadeem Aslam’s debut novel, first published in 1993, and a dramatic, well-crafted novel it is, taking two literary awards, the Betty Trask and the Author’s Club First Novel Award.
There is an understated control to Aslam’s narrative, chronicling the murder of a corrupt Pakistani judge and the seemingly unrelated discovery of missing postal bags of letters from a train crash 19 years earlier.
Within this mystery are two men, one spiritual, one investigative, charged with the protection of the village. Through their stories and their struggles, Aslam reveals the ambiguities of the interpretation of temporal and spiritual laws, of well-meaning perpetuation of ignorance, and the hopelessness of achieving any form of clarity or meaningful justice.
Not unlike Rohinton Mistry in style, Aslam’s adept use of understatement and simplicity serve as counterpoint to a complex social order and society. There are no simple answers. The world is shaded in grey, despite attempts by leaders to clearly define and categorize a repressive regime and social system. And Aslam’s use of evocative yet simple language and metaphor serve as deft strokes of shading and colour for the reader, creating an unforgettable yet bewildering image.