Amanda Craig

From Nagasaki to 9/11

Burnt Shadows


Bloomsbury 384pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Kamila Shamsie’s bold and ambitious fifth novel, Burnt Shadows, begins in Guantanamo prison and goes back to the bombing of Nagasaki before sweeping us forward over sixty years and across three continents. Its heroine, Hiroko, is a gifted Japanese linguist in love with a German, Konrad. He dies in the atomic explosion over Nagasaki, but she survives, although the embroidered cranes of her mother’s kimono are burnt indelibly on her back and heart. Forever defined by disaster in her native country, Hiroko travels to Delhi, where Konrad’s estranged half-sister is unhappily married to a British man, James. Hiroko’s vulnerability and honesty make her a welcome guest for Elizabeth, and when she begins to learn Urdu from James’s servant Sajjad Ashraf, an unusual cross-cultural romance begins. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,