After the phenomenal success of ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’, M. Hanif is coming up with another very exciting novel titled ‘Our Lady of Alice Bhatti’. According to M. Hanif it is a love story, where there’s also a marriage gone bad. But considering the kind of writing Hanif thrived on, it would not be totally correct to say that it is just a love story. The story revolves around the mundane realities of Christian community in Pakistan; charged with the mysterious narrations which in turn end up intertwining different social settings in an illuminating and complicated mix of scenarios, possibilities and thrilling developments of characters.
M. Hanif worked as the head of the BBC Urdu in London and now resides in Karachi. “Being a journalist many a time we come to a point when we know that the kind of information we are seeking is just beyond our reach,” he said, adding that fiction gave him the liberty to imagine the truth behind the story. The story of Alice Bhatti is also based in one of the hospitals of Karachi where Alice works as a junior nurse. Without any proper training Alice proved to be a tremendous assistance for the patients. During that employment a weird romance starts building between Alice and Teddy Butt, who is another patient in the hospital and works in the ‘Gentleman Squad’ of Karachi Police. With Teddy’s further ordeals in the pursuit of a suspect, their romance starts taking lots of turns and twists that Alice realizes that her love is not going to be eternalized. But Alice with all the imaginative power of faith and determination continues to extend the story and takes it to most exciting levels for the readers. Also the level of eroticism in the narration, a rare feast in Pakistani novels, profoundly embedded in the plot makes it a pleasurable reading.
Being the protagonist, Alice is not a simple character which has been streamlined through her financial and love problems, rather Alice is an epicenter of a community, an individual who portrays all the multiple facets of the society, their hopes, their longings for being identified and their struggle to attain some social status and recognition. Unlike the political satire in his debut novel, Alice Bhatti deals with the story of a community which has been marginalized in the name of religion since the time of independence with a very unique perspective which does not seem an outsider view throughout the novel. But still Hanif has not reduced the intensity of the satire and black humor in the second novel rather this time it is more touching and lively by all the meticulous skills earned writing the Exploding Mangoes.
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