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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Mohammed Hanif

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the author

To purchase A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Title: A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Author: Mohammed Hanif
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008
Length: 323 pages
Availability: A Case of Exploding Mangoes - US
A Case of Exploding Mangoes - UK
A Case of Exploding Mangoes - Canada

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Had a go at it (69 pages); didn't take to it

Chances that we will review it:


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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weeekly A- 16/5/2008 Katharine Critchlow
The Guardian . 31/5/2008 Priyamvada Gopal
The Independent . 30/5/2008 Chandak Sengoopta
New Statesman . 12/6/2008 Sara Wajid
The NY Times Book Rev. . 15/6/2008 Robert Macfarlane
San Francisco Chronicle . 1/6/2008 Francesca Mari
The Spectator . 2/7/2008 Carey Schofield
Sunday Times . 22/6/2008 Andrew Holgate
The Telegraph . 27/6/2008 Chandrahas Choudhury
The Telegraph . 27/6/2008 Patrick Skene Catling
TLS . 13/6/2008 Sameer Rahim
The Village Voice . 27/5/2008 Brian Francis Slattery
The Washington Post . 18/6/2008 Julia Slavin

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Mohammed Hanif confidently tackles "'the biggest cover-up in aviation history since the last biggest cover-up, ; bringing absurdist humor and surprising warmth to A Case of Exploding Mangoes." - Katharine Critchlow, Entertainment Weeekly

  • "Despite a shaky start, with overkill on the familiar imaginative topography of Pakistan -- deserts, generals, spies, explosions and cover-ups -- Hanif's narrative deftly explores the various possibilities suggested by Zia's death in a mysterious 1988 plane crash. Along the way, there's plenty of humour and slapstick. (Ö) It is as a serious novel of Pakistan's difficult recent history that Mangoes doesn't take wing, despite its ambitions. Like the Islamabad it depicts as "a whirl of conspiracies and dinner parties", it opts for the thrilling veneer over complex layers." - Priyamvada Gopal, The Guardian

  • "Hanif's novel is really a series of darkly comic vignettes about the investigation of Obaid's disappearance and the preoccupations of General Zia and his generals. There are sharply observed sketches of toadying ministers, mindlessly efficient security chiefs, filthy prison cells, sex-mad Arab sheikhs and erudite communist prisoners (who hate Maoists more than mullahs). (Ö) Although framed as a mystery and ending with rational explanations for Obaid's disappearance and Zia's plane crash, A Case of Exploding Mangoes is less Le Carré (Ö) than Private Eye. The tension does not build up until the final chapters and is then released far too quickly." - Chandak Sengoopta, The Independent

  • "But it is the unashamedly populist timbre, the defiantly silly, knockabout humour and the sheer brio of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, that mark it out as a new departure in Pakistani writing and a bold cultural intervention in British publishing. It is probably the first English novel about Pakistan with ambitions to cross over from literary to popular fiction. Hanif combines a journalist's gift for concise, punchy storytelling (he is head of the BBC World Service Urdu section and trained as a pilot in the Pakistani army during Zia's rule) with an affable, laconic, breezy, believable protagonist" - Sara Wajid, New Statesman

  • "The jokes start early in A Case of Exploding Mangoes, and they keep on coming. There are times when the novel feels just a touch too fond of its own one-liners. Satire is, after all, a comic mode that asks to be taken seriously. (Ö) Hanif has written a historical novel with an eerie timeliness." - Robert Macfarlane, The New York Times Book Review

  • "A playwright at heart, Hanif ensures that, in the end, all plots are tied into a neat knot. A Case of Exploding Mangoes is clever, choreographed. And the reader is amused, skipping right along, until, suddenly, the emotional arc finishes and Ö nothing. It doesn't affect. The reader looks up and realizes that he doesn't feel because he's not sure he believes in the situations, or, more problematically, in the characters themselves." - Francesca Mari, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "The abuse of Brigadier TM exemplifies the contempt for Pakistan that permeates Mohammed Hanifís novel; he treats the Americans far more gently than his own countrymen. (Ö) There are things to admire about this novel, however. The parallels with the present situation --war in Afghanistan, Americans running all over the place, an army man as President -- are quite fun and the story is compelling and energetic. (Ö) There is a novel to be written about Pakistanís military. But this is not it." - Carey Schofield, The Spectator

  • "Some fuss has been generated about this novel in the lead-up to publication -- Hanif is, after all, a graduate of the University of East Anglia creative writing programme, and his subject has unmistakable modern resonances. Sadly, his book feels only half-formed, an early draft that should have been taken away for serious surgery. The plot simply isnít defined enough, the characterisation isnít rich enough, the structure isnít robust enough, and, above all, the satire really isnít sharp enough to carry the reader or the book. Even the magical realism introduced at various points in the narrative feels half-hearted, while the attempts at political analysis can sometimes be embarrassingly naive. Hanif may show undoubted promise as a writer, but he really should have allowed himself more time to develop this novel properly." - Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times

  • "The irreverent language and set-ups of Hanif's novel relentlessly puncture the pretensions of power." - Chandrahas Choudhury, The Telegraph

  • "Mohammed Hanif's first novel is as grimly, intelligently comic as if written by an Asian Joseph Heller. (Ö) The University of East Anglia can really boost a would-be writer's creativity. Hanif has produced literature his alma mater should be proud of -- a funny novel that persuasively promotes pacifism." - Patrick Skene Catling, The Telegraph

  • "A Case of Exploding Mangoes is enjoyably satirical about Pakistan's military and political elite (the author was a pilot in the Air Force at the time of Zia's death). Towards the end, the novel seems rushed and is occasionally overwritten, but Mohammed Hanif expresses his anger at his country's lack of democracy and shady dealings with the US in a witty and effective manner. His book has yet to find a publisher in Pakistan." - Sameer Rahim, Times Literary Supplement

  • "What really drives Mangoes, however, is Hanif's sharp writing and considerable wit. His characters are ultimately pragmatists, trying to reconcile their own desires with the strict rules of both Islam and the government, while also wondering if it isn't too much to ask that there be something decent on the state-controlled television." - Brian Francis Slattery, The Village Voice

  • "When Hanif plays the book for comedy, he scores. (Ö) A Case of Exploding Mangoes belongs in a tradition that includes Catch-22, but it also calls to mind the biting comedy of Philip Roth, the magical realism of Salman Rushdie and the feverish nightmares of Kafka. But trying to compare his work to his predecessors is like trying to compare apples to, well, mangoes, because Hanif has his own story to tell, one that defies expectations at every turn." - Julia Slavin, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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A Case of Exploding Mangoes: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mohammed Hanif was born in Pakistan in 1965.

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© 2008 the complete review

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