I read the most engaging part of this sprawling, delicate novel in an excerpt in Granta in 2013. Tahmima Anam had been included in that magazine’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ list. ‘Anwar Gets Everything’ told the story of a Bangladeshi worker forced to wash skyscraper windows without safety equipment. Anwar’s tale turns out to be just one element of The Bones of Grace, which completes a trilogy that began with 2007’s much-feted A Golden Age and continued with The Good Muslim in 2011. Those books were characterised by an intense personal engagement with the consequences and aftermath of the Bangladeshi Liberation War of 1971. They were brought to life both by Anam’s use of her family history (her parents were freedom fighters whose tales make their way into the novels) and by a vast research project (Anam interviewed hundreds of people as part of her PhD at Harvard).
The Bones of Grace moves away from that era; although the war is a presence in the book, it’s not the driving concern. Set in the present day, it is narrated largely by Zubaida, a marine palaeontologist from Dhaka, in the form of a long letter to Elijah, her lover,