Saturday 3 April 2021

BLOG TOUR: In the Company of Strangers - Awais Khan

In the glittering world of Pakistan's elite, all is not what it seems... 

Mona has almost everything: money, friends, social status... everything except for freedom. Languishing in her golden cage, she craves a sense of belonging... 

Desperate for emotional release, she turns to a friend who introduces her to a world of glitter, glamour, covert affairs and drugs. There she meets Ali, a physically and emotionally wounded man, years younger than her. 

Heady with love, she begins a delicate game of deceit that spirals out of control and threatens to shatter the deceptive facade of conservatism erected by Lahori society, and potentially destroy everything that Mona has ever held dear.

What did I think?

I have tried audiobooks over the years with varying results in their attempt to hold my interest but it is not until discovering Isis Audio that I have become hooked.  In the Company of Strangers by Awais Khan is the third Isis Audio audiobook I have listened to and yet again the narration is outstanding.  Set in Pakistan, the book is narrated by Esh Alladi who brings so much authenticity and life to the novel that I half expected to turn around and find one of the characters standing behind me.

The novel literally starts with a bang that didn't just capture my attention, it grabbed it round the throat in a vice-like grip.  I felt as if I had been transported across the miles to Pakistan as the scene was described and voices cried out to be heard.  Esh Alladi must have an infinite number of voices in his repertoire; it continues to amaze me how one narrator can create so many unique character voices.  Absolutely wonderful narration; I take my hat off to you, Esh Alladi.

The story itself has more layers than an onion revolving around the two main characters of Mona and Ali.  Mona is in a loveless marriage and she's not even mistress of her own home, being constantly reminded by her vicious old crone of a mother-in-law that she's living under her roof.  There's an intriguing storyline surrounding Mona and her old friend Meera, who haven't seen each other for many years.  Then there's the beautiful love story between Mona and Ali that just made my heart sing.

I laughed at Meera's disdain for Bilal, I cowered at the grating voice of Mona's mother-in-law and I cried at the devastation caused by terrorism.  Awais Khan's writing creates amazing three dimensional characters and Esh Alladi's narration breathes life into them, evoking such strong emotions in the reader.  What a wonderful collaboration.

Running through the novel is the reminder of the class system, which seems even more prevalent in Pakistan.  I always think it's amazing how a poor person could invite you into their home and give you their last remaining provisions with a smile on their face, whilst a rich person would turn you away at the door.  I know I'm generalising but I was reminded of this in the novel and it does seems to happen the world over.

Engaging, emotional and beautiful, In the Company of Strangers is a wonderful debut from Awais Khan and it's well worth listening to the audiobook version to further enhance and fully experience the authenticity of the novel.

I chose to listen to an audiobook ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About The Author:

Awais Khan is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He is also an alum of Faber Academy. He teaches creative writing in Pakistan as part of the Writing Institute and has delivered lectures at Durham University, American University of Dubai, Canadian University of Dubai to name a few. He has appeared on BBC World Service, Dubai Eye, Voice of America, City42, Cambridge Radio, Samaa TV, Indus TV, PTV Home and several other radio and TV channels. His work has appeared in The Aleph Review, The Hindu, The Missing Slate etc.  

He is the author of In the Company of Strangers (published by Simon & Schuster, The Book Guild and Isis Audio) and No Honour (published by Orenda Books in Summer 2021). He is represented by Annette Crossland.

About The Narrator:

Esh Alladi is an actor who trained at LAMDA and has a wide range of stage experience. His theatre credits include: Hobson’s Choice (Royal Exchange), Rutherford and Son (Crucible Theatre), Absolute Hell (National Theatre) and Twelfth Night (Royal Shakespeare Company). Esh is also no stranger to the screen and some of his TV credits include: Anthony (BBC), Unprecedented (BBC), A Confession (ITV), Casualty (BBC), Frankie (BBC) and EastEnders (BBC). He won a UK Theatre Award in 2019 for Best Supporting Performance for his role in Hobson's Choice.

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