This is certainly an interesting novel by Zahid Hussain, It started very well, promised much, but didn't quite deliver.
The Curry Mile, narrates the return of the prodigal daughter, Sorayah Butt to Manchester and consequently her family. Quickly and effortlessly she is sucked into the politics, ambitions, and inevitable pull of the Curry Mile on Wilmslow Road. Concurrently, Hussain narrates the story of Sorayah's father, Ajmal Butt, observing his daughters return. The first time he has seen her since his ill-fated discovery of her non-Muslim boyfriend. We are then drawn into Ajmal Butt's world of habitual plotting, indignation, manipulation and desperation. From the troubles of his business to his ever heightening feud with his once beloved Sorayah.
The narrative relating to the character Ajmal Butt was far more interesting and compelling than the side along story of Sorayah. In Butt, Hussain creates an interesting character both to be admired and loathed, and I still can't make up my mind regarding my feelings about him, importantly however, some emotion is evoked. We are given the opportunity to observe the Mile through the eyes of Ajmal Butt. A man whose voracious appetite for constant scheming, is matched only by his determination to keep face. We observe his feuds with his enemies, and illicit relationship with the curvaceous Sameena. All adding to his layers and realism.
The richness in Ajmal Butt reflects diametrically the shell that is the character of Sorayah, who is lacking in substance. This is more disappointing in that Hussain starts building her character very well in the opening chapters, but seems to just leave her, incomplete and sketchy. This character suffers more because of abundance in detail regarding Ajmal Butt. Eventually I just found Sorayah a little boring and trite.
Overall, I would certainly say this novel is a page turner, and does read with consummate ease. It has a flowing narrative, which certainly draws you in, even if the author overly uses Urdu phrases throughout. I doubt it will win any literary prizes for ambient writing but I get the feeling the author wasn't looking to achieve that, rather wishing to create an interesting, cascading, finish-in-one-sitting sort of tale. It is engrossing in parts, and I would say a great choice if you want light reading for a commute. Hussain certainly has something, and if he creates more characters next time of the same quality as Ajmal Butt, and uses less Urdu phrases (you don't need 100 to make the book seem authentic!), then I think he will start shooting up the bestseller lists. Although not completely satisfied, it has wetted my appetite enough to buy his next novel.