Saturday, 21 September 2019

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West
Mohsin Hamid

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: 7th March 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction/ Magical Realism
Pages: 229
Format Read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of World of Books


In a city far away, bombs and assassinations shatter lives every day. Yet, even here, hope renews itself, welling up through the rubble. Somewhere in this city, two young people are smiling, hesitating, sharing cheap cigarettes, speaking softly then boldly, falling in love.

As the violence worsens and escape feels ever more necessary, they hear rumour of mysterious black doors appearing all over the city, all over the world. To walk through a door is to find a new life – perhaps in Greece, in London, in California – and to lose the old one for ever . . .

What does it mean to leave your only home behind? Can you belong to many places at once? And when the hour comes and the door stands open before you – will you go?


Exit West is not a novel I would normally pick up to read. It was the Fairy Book Club’s chosen novel for August/September book of the month. It’s always good to go out of your comfort zone and read something different.

The story follows two young people, Saeed and Nadia, in an unnamed country on the edge of collapse. The economy was sluggish and the militants had taken over control of the city.
Nadia and Saeed meet and start a chaste relationship. Nadia’s independence and rebellious streak is a stark contrast to Saeed’s conservative personality.

The story centres around the collapse of their country and the appearance of black doors which are portals to other countries. This is the only magical realism in the story. Thousands of people are fleeing poor countries, under siege, in search of a better life.

Mohsin Hamid gives his readers an omniscient point of view which shows the feelings of the natives and the immigrants, without judgement and quite often without emotion. He reflects the fear from both sides and portrays the real struggle of displaced people who only wish to live in safety. Over time, as they move from country to country, trying to fit into a world that views then with fear and suspicion, we observe Nadia and Saeed’s changing relationship.

At times characters flit into the book, tell their story then are gone. I’m not sure whether these vignettes were of any benefit to the overall story.
I did struggle to stay focused on the overly wordy sentences. Some well over a page long!

Exit West is a story of our time for our time.

*Thank you to The Fairy Book Club and World of Books for my copy to read.


My rating  3/5  

Photo Credit: Goodreads
Mohsin Hamid is the author of four novels, Moth Smoke , The Reluctant Fundamentalist , How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia , and Exit West , and a book of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations .

His writing has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, selected as winner or finalist of twenty awards, and translated into thirty-five languages.

Born in Lahore, he has spent about half his life there and much of the rest in London, New York, and California.



  1. This sounds like one I'd want to read if I ever have the time. I think it is so important we learn about what other people have been through and are continuing to go through.

  2. I've had this on my shelf for a while, keep meaning to get to it - thanks for the reminder!!