This is a very interesting concept for a novel. It’s set after the terror attacks that took place in New York eleven years ago yesterday. In a reflection of reality, a group of jurors convenes to select a suitable memorial to the dead from those submitted by designers. In order to ensure that the jury isn’t swayed by the names of some of the internationally renowned designers submitting designs, the designs are judged anonymously. When the winning design is selected, it is found to belong to Mohammed Khan, an ambitious architect who happens to be an American Muslim.
The bulk of the novel describes the consternation, debates, and protests this revelation sets in train. There’s relatively little plot, but lots of first-person reflection on situations.
Unfortunately, it all turns out to be a little dull, primarily because the characters are poorly developed and only consider the situation from within their given view-set. There’s no meta-reflection, if you like, on the wider problem of religion causing dispute. I’m not sure if the author intended to leave that to the reader, but I missed any hint in that direction.
From a plot point-of-view, I’d have liked to have seen the reaction to the final decision explored in more detail outside of the central characters, as that’s really the most interesting concept.
So, in the end, it’s an interesting set-up, but ends up being a little empty, and hence more than a little disappointing.
I struggled with the star-rating on this one: it sits somewhere between two and three stars. I ultimately plumped for three on the strength of the premise more than anything else… I’m still not completely convinced it lives up to that rating.
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