Exit West is a novel I admire more than actually like. Without a doubt it is clever. Although the story is about attitudes towards migrants, Hamid goes a step further and adds a magical realist element by allowing migrants to pass to other countries through magical doors which crop up. The book also is about a young couple trying to survive their war torn country and then when the couple find a doorway they try to survive adapting to their country’s traditions.
As the couple are coping, their relationship develops as well. Hamid manages to integrate this love story without becoming overly melodramatic. In fact the whole book itself is tasteful yet manages to drive the point that, essentially, we are all migrants in some way or another. Definitely a prescient novel.
There’s a lot to dwell on, but the thing that ruined the book is Hamid’s writing style. I felt that Exist West read like a badly translated novel. Although there isn’t cliched dialogue (thank goodness), the writing style is dull. Both the characters Saaed and Nadia had a ton of potential but the flat prose renders them into one dimensional characters. With such a rich plot, it is disappointing to see that the style doesn’t really match. However I am thinking about Exit West and the strength of the themes and how they do reflect 21st century society so there is some merit I guess.