The Submission by Amy Waldman

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The Submission Longlisted for 2012 Orange Prize

Five words from the blurb: 9/11, memorial, Muslim, conflict, tragedy

The Submission is a topical book, detailing the outcome of a “what if” scenario in which a Muslim wins the competition to design the 9/11 memorial. The plot switches between multiple narrators, giving the reader the opportunity to see the situation from every side.

I had very mixed feelings about this book – swinging between loving it and hating it at frequent intervals. It was packed with interesting discussion points and some of the scenes were beautifully described, but the characters were flat and I failed to connect to any of them.

The writing quality was also variable. Some passages were beautifully written, but I frequently found too much detail and longed for the sentences to be a bit shorter:

“I know the concerns,” he said gruffly: that it was too soon for a memorial, the ground barely cleared; that the country hadn’t yet won or lost the war, couldn’t even agree, exactly, on who or what it was fighting. But everything happened faster these days – the building up and tearing down of idols; the spread of disease and rumor and trends; the cycling of news; the development of new monetary instruments, which in turn had speeded Paul’s own retirement from the chairmanship of the investment bank. So why not the memorial too?

Flashbacks to 9/11 were tastefully done, with virtually no details given. I loved the way these scenes ended with the phone ringing, the terrible news implied without ever being described.

I expected this to be a thought-provoking book, but unfortunately I didn’t find that to be the case. The sad thing is that most of the events described in this book have happened already, either with the plans for a mosque near the World Trade Centre site, or with other events in London/around the world. This meant that the “what if” scenarios weren’t especially ground-breaking and I felt as though I’d heard all the arguments many times before.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is unaware of the shocking way in which Muslims in our society are treated, but for a book about such an emotive subject I found it surprisingly flat.

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The thoughts of other bloggers: 

…this is a book that literally moved me to tears and I honestly can’t remember the last time a book did that. Steph & Tony Investigate

Despite a strong premise and beginning, Waldman’s overwrites this novel to a frustrating point. Nomadreader

Waldman gives her novel it’s own unique voice and memorable cast of characters that makes it stand out from any other non-fictionalized story it may resemble. Literary Musings

 


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