x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti: a vibrant tragicomedy

Mohammed Hanif quirky characters can be a bit grating, but an endless stream of exuberant prose and wry comments on the decay of social niceties make Our Lady of Alice Bhatti a good read.

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti
Mohammed Hanif
Jonathan Cape
Dh72

Author of the Booker Prize longlisted A Case of Exploding Mangoes - a witty tale concerning conspiracy theories and political intrigue - Mohammed Hanif spins a seemingly more mundane yarn with his second novel. Alice Bhatti walks into a hospital looking for a job, almost expecting not to get it.

However, things rarely function that seamlessly at Sacred Heart Hospital in Karachi. Barely even function at all in fact; it is their current understaffed state that leads them to hire Alice in the first place. However, despite her hard-nosed work ethic and foul mouth, the lovely Alice only begins to stir up more trouble as she catches the eye of Teddy Butt, a police tout and the current Mr Junior Faisalabad.

That Hanif likes his characters peppered with a litany of quirks may have proved grating, but an endless stream of exuberant prose and wry comments on the decay of social niceties make for a nice distraction, even enhancing his protagonists' blunders as clever plot twists.

Overall, Alice Bhatti is a vibrant kind of tragicomedy, one that possesses the unique power of making you shake your head while dazzling with its literary punch.