I read Roopa Farooki’s first novel ‘Bitter Sweets’ and I thought the woman had a talent for storytelling. Her first novel was of a ‘sari & curry’ variety and I hoped she wouldn’t stay in this comfort zone for long.
A few novels later Roopa Farooki and I meet again. ‘The Flying Man’ is her latest attempt and a more daring one. The protagonist Maqil, also known by many other names starting with “M”, is a compulsive charmer and gambler. Wherever he lays his hat is his home.
He is the kind of person you don’t want to be related to. He is not as purposely malicious so that you could overpass the blood ties and hate him anyway. You still feel obliged to love him, even though it is unbelievably taxing.
He is not a cold-hearted gangster, just a small time conman, a butterfly who flies from one flower to another never thinking twice of the lives he leaves behind. When the wind changes he finds himself somewhere else, with a new name, new family and a new job.
It is a brave thing for an author to write a book whose main characters are not particularly likeable. Although, personally, I don’t look to be friends with characters in books. All I want from them is that they are fully fleshed out and authentic. Yet, it seems that many readers value highly the so called ‘likeable characters’ and would abandon the book if they didn’t warm up to the characters as carelessly as Maqil abandons his wives.
Luckily for Ms Farooki, Maqil has one thing going for him – he knows how to put on a show. He is so used to performing; he even performs when he has no audience other than himself. This is why the narration can switch smoothly between first and third person because it is all part of one show.
The book starts off gently but as it progresses it gains momentum and becomes deeper and more powerful. Quite rightly it is now long-listed for Orange Prize. I wish it was even longer and more detailed. I wanted to know about all Maqil’s cons, I wanted to know more about his car journey from France to Pakistan, I wanted to know more about all his narrow escapes.
It’s a shame the publisher stuck ‘The Flying Man’ in this demeaning bright orange, flowery cover. I know my boyfriend would enjoy this book but wouldn’t be caught dead reading in public something so orangey and chick-lit looking. What would it hurt to put some dice and cards and some bold type on the cover instead?