Book Review: The Last White Man  by Mohsin Hamid

This is a story about Anders, a white man who wakes one morning to find his skin has turned dark and when he looks into the mirror a stranger’s face is all he sees. Terrified he tells his new lover, Oona. Before long, there are reports coming from all over the country that this happening to other white people.

The main characters are Anders and Oona whose relationship grows as the established order of society is challenged and changes. It reminded me very much of what may have been inspired by our response. Like the pandemic, there is panic buying and fear as more and more white people change colour. Suspicion, resistance and racist vigilantes, riots and violence ensue.

There is also the voice of another generation in Ander’s father and Oona’s mother. The relationship Anders has with his father is tender and illuminating. Oona’s mother resists and fights, clinging to her conservative views until the end.

The writing is quite different, in very long paragraphs, punctuated only by commas. The following excerpt is an example which goes for almost a page.

“”When Anders got back in his car it occurred to him that the three people he had seen were all white, and that he was perhaps being paranoid, inventing meaning out of details that might not matter, and at a traffic light he confronted his gaze in the rear-view mirror, looked for the whiteness there, for it must be somewhere, maybe in his expression, but he could not see it, and the more he looked the less white he seemed, as though looking for his whiteness was the opposite of whiteness… “

Reading this novel with paragraphs so long made me almost hold my breath, as tension and change escalates. But it’s not all doom and gloom as Hamid shows us what society can do and perhaps it is a way of giving us hope for the adaptability or even a metamorphosis of humans into a better non-racist future.

It’s a short read and I’m sure will be on the awards list. I enjoyed this one.

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