Tuesday 21 August 2012

WBC - The Submission by Amy Waldman

The SubmissionThe Submission by Amy Waldman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time Taken To read - 4 days

Blurb From Goodreads

Ten years after 9/11, a dazzling, kaleidoscopic novel reimagines its aftermath.

A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner's name - and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country's.

The memorial's designer is an enigmatic, ambitious architect named Mohammad Khan. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself - as unknowable as he is gifted. In the fight for both advantage and their ideals, all will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.

In this deeply humane novel, the breadth of Amy Waldman's cast of characters is matched by her startling ability to conjure their perspectives. A striking portrait of a fractured city striving to make itself whole, The Submission is a piercing and resonant novel by an important new talent

My Review

A competition to design a memorial for the victims of 9/11 is set and a jury to pick the winner. The anonymous design is by an architect called Mohammad Khan, behind closed doors the jurors argue over the impossibility of this man being allowed to design it. What follows is a lot of anger, distrust, hurt, hate, racism and arguments/debates over what is right morally and if the design should be allowed or even announced.

I loved the start of this book. It raised so many questions and an inner debate, if I was on that jury would I have a problem with it? Would I be suspicious? Or would I be outraged on Mohammad's behalf, an American being wronged because of his religion and his appearance. I didn't like how there wasn't a lot of background on the characters but I suppose it may have taken away from the subject matter but I would have liked to know more about Mohammad and what made him the way he was (and why he reacted as he did).

You read a lot of the characters opinions as the book goes on and the debate for and against it and also how Mohammad reacts to it all and his perception. To be honest, nearing the end I started to waver and get a little bored by it. The same issues kept going round and then the end seemed to jump a fair bit. I would have liked to have had more attention paid to the final outcome of the memorial and how it came about but felt it skimmed on that and started giving us a bit more on the characters when the whole book had been about the memorial and reactions rather than any kind of depth of the characters.

It is still a very interesting read, for the most part and it certainly makes you think (I even learned a little about a different religion). I think it would make for an excellent book group read as there is much to discuss and debate on. 3/5 for me this time and thanks to Waterstones Book Club for sending this my way.

View all my reviews


  1. This does sound thought provoking. Even if it was a bit slow towards the end, overall it sounds like a good read. Nice review.

  2. This was on my wishlist for a time but I recently tried to be sensible & cut down my wishlist so I took this off. From your review I think I made the right decision. It sounds alright but not something I need to read right away!
    What exactly is the Waterstones Book Club? I've seen it on their website before but it looks like just a list of recommended books rather than a book club, I've never seen anywhere where you can discuss the book or read other peoples' thoughts.


  3. Sounds like this was not all it could have been - perhaps a bit of a hit and miss affair that didn't live up to its potential.


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