n innocent betrayal of a childhood friend’s trust and the memory of shame when Pak troops surrendered at Dacca haunt this novel. Like most children, Laila stores painful memories till she can understand or exorcise them. One’s reminded of Khalid Hosseini’s The Kite Runner
, where childhood guilt becomes a journey toward redemption. But Mohsin makes the death of Rani, Laila’s childhood friend, the central motif, touching only lightly at an equally shattering event: Pakistan’s surrender. Laila’s Sabzbagh, like Eden after the Fall, never recovers its lost innocence post these events.
In her satirical column on Pakistan’s political-social life, Diary of a Social Butterfly, Mohsin captures the two worlds brilliantly. Perhaps satire rather than romantic fiction is her true metier. That sharp eye surfaces only occasionally, as when she describes a departing matron’s "velvet buttocks gambolling behind her like a pair of playful puppies".
The only character who understands the tragedy inherent in a nation built on...