Pakistani author Taymour Soomro’s debut sees teenage Fahad very reluctantly accompanying his father to his upcountry farm estate in Abad, an area developed largely from jungle as his power-hungry father is keen to tell everyone. Fahad would rather spend his summer with his mother in London or Karachi but Rafik wants to toughen him up, show off his own power and influence in the area and present Fahad as the next generation.
Fahad is unable to fit into his father’s image of him. Things seem to improve when ex-London resident and Rafik’s cousin Mousey returns home but his motives challenge Rafik’s plans. A young man, Ali, is introduced to Fahad as a role model but Fahad finds himself attracted to him.
Tradition and the importance of family are two unsurprising themes here with those unable to sustain those values being swept aside. The characters are unable to express their feelings to one another causing long lasting frustration and resentment. Rafik’s need for power and prestige cannot allow anyone to stand in his way.
The story is well told and there are some lovely moments especially in the interactions between characters, Fahad with the “young thug” Ali and also with his aging father in the latter stages of the novel but for me it did not have the resonance I was expecting.
The author switches from father to son’s perspective within the third person narrative and there are jumps in time which gives a jerky, disjointed feel at times which sometimes I can actually appreciate in novels but here I think it affects the reader’s relationships with the characters.
I didn’t feel that I knew the characters well enough. There is so much potential within the cast here, Rafik, Fahad, the mother, father’s cousin Mousey and Ali have all potential to blend into something outstanding but I felt the author was only allowing me to have a superficial understanding of them as if something was being held back. I felt this particularly with main character Fahad, on this occasion leaving the reader to fill in the gaps influences the reader’s response to him. I felt I wasn’t being pulled in to the novel as consistently as I could have been.
I do feel however that Taymour Soomro has provided us with a very visual work and there are considerable poignant, subtle scenes. A TV/film adaptation could work very well indeed incorporating these beautiful small moments within the novel into a visual narrative.
Other Names For Love is published by Harvill Secker on 7th July 2022. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance review copy.