The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki

DATE FINISHED: April 2nd, 2012

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Maqil, Miguel, Mehmet, Mike, slips through life from name to name, wife to wife, border to border, decade to decade, relying on his easy charm and quick wit to see him through the short con and the long, to provide the edge and entertainment he craves. But suddenly he is old, and what does he have to show for it? And who will miss him, once he’s gone?

THOUGHTS:   I was expecting to read about the exploits of a glib, smooth-talking conman, but instead Farooki revealed the other side of the man – trapped in a cycle of his own making, increasingly self-aware but not enough to want to change (in fact, the only real scam outlined within the novel is pulled by Maqil’s true love and second wife, Samira).  This novel looks behind the mask of the inveterate performer and storyteller, to see what is left once the audience and stage are taken away.

At the beginning of the novel Maqil is old, but the bulk of the story is told chronologically from his birth onwards.  In a way, it’s a sad story, but Farooki is so successful in showing Maqil’s conflict within himself that it’s impossible to feel entirely sorry for him, or feel he should have lived his life another way.  He lived selfishly but genially, and he missed out on a lot, but he lived the life he felt destined to lead.

This is a surprisingly poignant portrait of a charming egomaniac growing old, and those his lives touch.  I was quickly drawn into Maqil’s story, and was equally impressed by Farooki’s management of his relationship with Samira, and the impact of their strong personalities on their children.  It would be easy to paint a caricature surrounded by a 2-dimensional supporting cast, but Maqil, Samira, Mika and Zamir are all very satisfyingly fleshed out, human and fallible.  Farooki’s writing is deceptively unobtrusive; and she tells a very perceptive of story of human nature.  There are no glib, easy answers; it is just about people living their lives, and whether ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, living with the decisions they make.

FOLLOWING ON:  The Emigre by Joan Brady for the story of another conman.  The episodic sense of reinvention was reminiscent of Q & A by Vikas Swarup.


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