Book Reviews

Book Review: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Book Review Leave the world behind

Clay, Amanda & their 2 teenage children are on a week-long break away from the city. They are your average family, living in New York. Amanda works in advertising, Clay teaches at college & reviews books for the New York Times. As they’re settling into their holiday in someone else’s house, one night, there is a knock on the door. A black couple, GH & his wife, Ruth, ask to come in stating they are the owners of the place because something is happening in the city; there has been a blackout, & phone & internet services are down. But should Amanda & Clay believe this couple?

I’d seen this book at the shops before the social media hype but back then, it didn’t seem like one for me. Then I got curious. It reads like a dystopian novel, & a little like a thriller. I’d argue it’s more the former. Nothing seems to be happening & yet, something is happening. Alam’s writing fills you with unease & dread wondering what that something is. It is also a commentary about the world we live in – racism, classism, our reliance on technology, our impact on the environment. I finished this book last weekend but found myself thinking about it & trying to make sense. There is no neatly wrapped up ending & in a way, it reminded me of The X-Files which I loved in my late teens, but which also frustrated me sometimes. That said, the book didn’t have a Mulder or Scully for me to love it.

While I was hooked, I also found myself getting annoyed with the writing especially the close third-person narrative but, from every character’s point of view. It was jarring & unsettling & often took me out of the story. Yes, I understand the author was trying to be clever & possibly threw out all writing rules but it’s unsettling for a reader to suddenly realise ‘oh wait, it’s so-and-so thinking this & not the person in the previous sentence’. It’s a hard book to review. As I said, nothing seems to be happening but something is. And maybe that’s just life when we are faced with an unknown threat. Sort of like the last 12 months. I‘ll admit I didn’t care for any of the characters or the plot but it still made for a gripping read. And yes, I may have closed the book & gone ‘What the fuck was that?’

My rating:

Book Details:

CategoryLiterary Fiction, Thriller
Publishing dateOctober 2020

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