Our second meeting of Mitchells Roberton Book Group took place today. We were discussing Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid. I had previously read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by the same author and really liked it so suggested we read Moth Smoke Moshin Hamed’s debut novel. The novel is set in Lahore during a sweltering summer of 1998 against the backdrop of Pakistan and India rattling their nuclear sabres and the dichotomy of the mounting tension of income inequalities dividing the nation and ethno -religious pride uniting it. Hamid presents an uncomfortable account of contemporary Pakistan, a side of Pakistan that no one seems to know about. The novel traces the downfall of Daru Shezad a junior banker who is fired from his job and begins a descent into drugs and dissolution and for good measure falls in love with the wife of his childhood friend . Daru has lived on the fringes of high society but his lack of connections brings him up against a glass ceiling. He is desperate to reverse his fortunes and embarks upon a career of crime. When a long planned heist goes awry he finds himself on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed. Like the moths in the title reduced to smoke by their fatal attraction to candles Daru has fallen through his appetite for self destruction , his drug habit and obsession with Muntaz . There are several laudable points to the novel. The intricate emotions of the three main protagonists, an ambitious wife and mother, an obscenely rich cuckold and an apt lost soul are richly explored and I like that the reader is left to judge the characters, their insecurities, their arrogance and their crimes. That said I found the beginning slow and at times the characters annoying. For me The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a far better novel. I am glad I have read Moth Smoke but I would say it was a one time read not a must read. The other members of the Book Group I think agreed. So if looking for a novel about modern Asia go for The Reluctant Fundamentalist but most of all pick up Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and meet Prabaker one of the most loveable characters of all time for me. Now for something completely different…..Next month we are reading The Prison of Brenda by Colin Bateman. Sounds fun.