City of Men City of Flowers Land Beyond the Mountains Caspatyrus, Paruparaesanna, Paropamisadae, Gandhara, Parasapur, Purashapura, Poshapura, Po-lu-sha-pu-lo, Fo-lu-sha, Farshabur, Peshawar " They all had a name for it, century after century- the Persians, the Greeks, the Mauryans, the Indo- Greeks, the Sassanids, the Kushans; kings and generals and Buddhist monks and travellers , everyone felt the tug of Peshawar." Truly and aptly said by the famed author Kamila Shamsie in her latest book, A God In Every Stone. History, Archaeology, India's fight for Independence, World War 1, Ottoman regime, Indian sepoys fighting for the Queen in the World War 1, Peshawar in early 20th century- such contrasting topics but under Shamsie's excellent writing, it turns into a beautiful story, set in the early 20th century. It starts somewhere in 1914 and ends in the middle of 1930's. Vivian Rose Spencer, Nazeeb and his elder brother Qayyum Gul are the three main protagonists here, sharing a unique connection amongst themselves, which though seems insignificant in the beginning reveals its true meaning and importance at the climax of the story on the Street of Storytellers, Peshawar. The story begins in the ancient town of Labraunda, where Vivian is a part of an excavation dig led by her father's old friend, Tahsin Bey, a Turk. Shamsie's style of writing about the ruins of Labraunda, the broken columns, half buried rocks and the wild foliage growing there is so vivid that I could picturise it all so well and almost feel myself being present there. Beautiful!!! From Labraunda, the story jumps to France in the time of World War One , where the Indian sepoys are being deputed to fight for the Queen of England- The readers have to understand that the Jump in the story is not haphazard rather a very smoothly done one!!! After the excavation dig and the battle of Ypres, Shamsie takes the readers to the mesmerising, alluring, addictive, mysterious city of Peshawar where the story reaches its climax and the destiny of our three main characters come together to create an ending which is brave, humane, sad, poignant and at the same time is cruel and harsh. It makes you weep and smile and even get angry, simultaneously!! I am very impulsive and mostly all the books which I end up buying/reading are a result of this impulsive streak. This book was another such buy. I was very cautious when I started this book, fearing the worst ( that I might get bored and loose interest), but to my pleasant surprise I really enjoyed this story. I was never a history buff but I was hooked to this one from page 1. And the one aspect which thoroughly had me in its grip was the detailed archaeological parts. Shamsie has done a brilliant job here and the descriptions were so apt that I just had to close my eyes to visualise it all. Just one word... Wow!!
Peshawar - I have no words to do justice to the charm, the magic, the chaos, the culture, the people, the society of a city which is the heart of this story. The myraid lanes of Peshawar and their intriguing names - The Street of Partridge Lovers, The Street of Englishwomen, The Street of Felt Caps, The Street of Silver, The Street of Potters - made the story all the more interesting and enthralling for me. I am right now in my happy place, feeling content and satisfied, having completed a good book and enjoying visualising certain scenes and characters in my mind, again and again!! This is one author whom I would love to read again to enjoy the beautiful synchronised blend of history, facts and fiction with characters who stay with you long after the story is over!!