(2012) #11 review: A Golden Age

A Golden Age


Tahmima ANAM

276 pages

Published by Harper in 2008

I read this book for the following Challenges:



I enjoy more and more doing this reading challenge which makes me visit so many different countries and read books I would probably never have read otherwise.

When I was  about 8, I met a young man who had just come back form Bangladesh with a little orphan he had found there. This was my only contact and knowledge with that country, apart from horrific images of famine and flood.

I enjoyed very much this book, set during the war of independence of Bangladesh. It was excellent at showing the love of the country of the characters, in particular in a mother who had also a very deep love for her 2 children. This deep love will lead her to do something very particular, very difficult for this good woman.
It is probably totally by chance, but I had just finished this novel on the Sunday when our Church was reading  Matthew 25:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

It struck me that Rehana DID all these things on the course of the novel. That sheds a particular light on the last act she had to do for the love of her children.

I’m using now questions proposed by another challenge: around the world in 12 countries – we had to read a book on Bangladesh in February:

What did you learn about the country’s culture, history etc. from reading this book?
Everything! There were a lot of daily life scenes that gave a good idea of the culture. and of course the historical situation with the independence from Pakistan was well explained, from different perspectives – civilians and military as well.

Any new insights, any shifts in your perception, or did it align with what you knew/understood already?
The country sounds much more beautiful than the hosts I had seen on tv or in magazines decades ago, at the time of the war.


How did land, geography, flora and fauna feature in the book? Did it have a distinct feel that helped you visualise and made you feel like you were there, or was the story more focused on plot?
Absolutely, you could see and smell the flowers, for instance


As young widow Rehana Haque awakes one March morning, she might be forgiven for feeling happy. Her children are almost grown, the city is buzzing with excitement after recent elections. Change is in the air.
But no one can foresee what will happen in the days and months that follow. For this is East Pakistan in 1971, a country on the brink of war. And this family’s life is about to change forever.
Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, ‘A Golden Age’ is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith, and unexpected heroism. In the chaos of this era, everyone must make choices. And as she struggles to keep her family safe, Rehana will be forced to face a heartbreaking dilemma. [goodreads]


Tahmima Anam was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1975. She was raised in Paris, New York City, and Bangkok.

After studying at Mount Holyoke College and Harvard University, she earned a PhD in Social Anthropology.

Her first novel, A Golden Age, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Costa First Novel Prize, and was the winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. It was translated into 22 languages.

Her writing has been published in Granta, The New York Times, and the Guardian.

She lives in London.


‘Tahmima Anam’s startlingly accomplished and gripping novel describes not only the tumult of a great historical event… but also the small but heroic struggles of individuals living in the shadow of revolution and war’  – Pankaj Mishra

“I couldn’t tear myself away from A Golden Age…the authenticity shines through Anam’s beautiful, simple prose.”  – Martha Kearney, Harper’s Bazaar

“There is a powerful feeling of tension as we wait to see how [the] story of domestic loss will work its way into the narrative of civil war, and when it does the result is heart-shattering.” – Kamila Shamsie, Guardian Review

Other reviews and material available on the author’s website.