I recently finished Exit West, a book I have seen all of London reading this year. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, I knew it had to be good! Though it wasn’t something I would typically read, I absolutely loved it! Here’s why.
Exit West follows two teenagers from a (presumed) Asian town in unrest. I believe it is set a couple generations ago, when many people became refugees in the great wars, and migrated to survive. Exit West follows Nadia and Saeed, both in very different circumstances, come together in their first romantic love, and how they survived.
Nadia, though always fully covered in her black robe, breaks religious and cultural tradition from her family, moving away to live by herself in the city. Saeed lives with his parents, whom he loves dearly. Soldiers are a common scene in their every day life, as are bombs, and their lives are cautious but not ruined, until both of their homes become the scene of fighting. Nadia moves in with Saeed’s family, which is suddenly changed.
‘Black doors’ are rumoured to be a great escape for anyone in Nadia and Saeed’s position. They are guarded and require payment, but are said to take people somewhere better. Nadia and Saeed make their move. Throughout the novel, they enter several black doors, always looking for something better, somewhere safer to start the rest of their life. The book gives valuable insight into the great risk of emigrating, without really knowing where you are actually emigrating to, and knowing that you can never go back. It’s dangerous, it’s unnerving and it’s incredible.
I loved the concept of this book, having no previous knowledge of regugees situations and the process of moving without being noticed. That being said, the black doors in Exit West felt like a cop out. I wanted to hear a real description of how people transported themselves to new places on a number of vehicles and, often, a treacherous journey but that’s not what I found. Characters entered a literal door, were in the dark for a few moments, and transgressed time and space to get somewhere impossible.
I was also surprised by the love story within Exit West. Nadia and Saeed supported each other, were rocks to each other and yet slowly, having seen the worst of each other for so long, disintegrated. It was one of the most real and modern deviction of a relationship. I was disappointed to see them grow apart but also felt grateful for the author’s honesty.
Exit West is a great novel, discussing an important issue and is also a fast-paced read for anyone looking for something easy and brilliant!