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Book Review

At the Time of Partition by Moniza Alvi (Bloodaxe)

Moniza Alvi - At the Time of PartitionMoniza Alvi’s new book-length poem At The Time of Partition (Bloodaxe) was the first book I bought last month from Nottingham’s wonderful new independent Five Leaves Bookshop. Short-listed for the TS Eliot prize, the poem weaves family stories from a terrible and life-changing period for the millions were caught up in the new divide between India and Pakistan. I’ve long been an admirer of Alvi’s poetry, from her first collection,A Country at My Shoulder (1993), onwards. She has a distinctive ability, in evidence here once more, to explore identity and capture key moments in people’s lives, examining them through the minutiae of everyday events: ‘the pleating of a sari/… The sweeping of the hallway.’ Her powerful new work focuses on a family’s decision about whether they should stay in India or cross the thin line to the new country, Pakistan. She unravels the questions, doubts, rumours and heart-breaking consequences that are all bound up in this momentous decision with a deftness and delicacy which should bring her many new admirers.

Sue Dymoke

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