His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world’s pulse. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation—and exceeds it. the astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.
This is a well written book, there’s no denying it. Obviously, the writer knows what he is doing and he’s earned awards and nominations for his works. All that said, I didn’t particularly like this book. We just didn’t click.
The writing, in its sparse, mostly narrative fashion, reminds me a bit of a modern Hemingway, which might be the problem, since I’m not a huge fan of said author. It is too cold and clinical for me, even when it’s trying to get across a bit of emotion. This novel fits into the same mold. Even though the author tries to submerge us in the book by using the second person (rarely successful, and in my opinion, not worth the effort), we still feel too detached from what’s happening. We don’t bond with the protagonist, we don’t even know his name, and it’s hard to feel for any of the other people he interacts with because they don’t come across as wholly believable. The spark is just not there.
The plot is another issue I have with this book. I just don’t see much of a point in it. I’ve read other books very similar to this, so it’s not a matter of originality. When I finished it, it left nothing behind in my head. It’s one of those books that I’ll forget in a few days, which, really, is probably the best clue I can give you as to whether it’s worth reading or not. I’m sure many of you will enjoy it; it just wasn’t for me.