City of Spies

City of Spies

by Sorayya Khan


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In this intimate coming-of-age story set in the late 1970s, a young girl struggles to make sense of the chaos around her during Pakistan’s political upheaval, where the military revolts, the embassy burns, and a terrible secret tears her world apart.

Eleven-year-old Aliya Shah lives a double life in Islamabad, Pakistan—at home with her Pakistani father and Dutch mother, and at the American School, where Aliya tries to downplay that she is a “half-and-half.” But when a hit-and-run driver kills the son of the family’s servant, Sadiq, who is also Aliya’s dear friend, her world is turned upside down. After she discovers the truth behind the tragedy—a terrible secret that burdens her heart—her conflicted loyalties are tested as never before.

Based on the author’s own experiences growing up in Islamabad, City of Spies offers a poignant and dramatic portrait of a tumultuous time, as seen through the eyes of a brave and compassionate young heroine struggling to find her place in the gray area between loyalty and complicity, family and country.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A young girl straddles two cultures in 1970s Pakistan.Aliya Shah is 11 years old. Her mother is Dutch, her father is Pakistani, and when Aliya was 5, her family moved from Europe to Islamabad, where her father now works for the country's Water and Power Development Authority. Aliya goes to an American school with the children of diplomats and, presumably, spies. Her best friend is a blonde girl named Lizzy. Aliya exists between worlds; with her brown skin, she's clearly set apart from her schoolmates, but at home, she can't speak Urdu with Sadiq, the family's servant. One night, Sadiq's young son is hit and killed by a car, which then drives off. Over the next year, Aliya gradually begins to piece together what happened in the crash, including the identity of the driver. All of this is set against a complicated political background: it's the 1970s; Bhutto has been deposed, and Gen. Zia has assumed leadership. Then, too, the hostage crisis in Iran, in which 52 Americans were held for 444 days, has taken over the news: suspicion of and resentment toward Americans, for their interference in the Middle East, is at a premium. Khan (Five Queen's Road, 2009, etc.) writes with a lovely elegance; both her characters and the world they inhabit come vibrantly alive. Unfortunately, she has an occasional tendency to overexplain themes already implicit in the narrative. Her treatment of race, class, and American imperialism can feel heavy-handed in places. Still, overall the novel is a moving success and necessary at a time when many of the same concerns have come to dominate our national (and international) consciousness. Despite occasional heavy-handedness, Khan's third novel is a complex and moving examination of, among other things, American imperialism through the eyes of a young girl.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781503941588
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Pages: 284
Sales rank: 798,557
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews