Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Banker’s Daughter

Emran Mian
The Banker’s Daughter

Harvill Secker, 2012

Hanna Mehdi is 20-something-year-old daughter of the former owner of a major bank in London. In is the beginning of 2008, and Hannah with her father, whom she calls Baba, for nearly three years have been living in Beirut, where they fled from England, when the bank collapsed. The bank, which was the largest Arab bank in the world, had collapsed under mysterious circumstances. People standing at the helm, managed to escape from London, and so far the public doesn’t known whether Baba lost all his money, along with all other depositors, or he shamelessly appropriated the depositors' money.

In Beirut, Hanna and her father lead a comfortable life. They live in a luxury hotel, Baba has his own yacht, Hanna wears expensive clothes. For days, Baba just drinks cocktails by the pool, and Hanna is not busy with anything special. From Beirut they will not be be forced to the interrogations, so Hanna's father is not worried that justice will reach him and his daughter here in Lebanon. But in Beirut the Mehdi family is still under cover, without revealing to anyone who they really are. Hanna graduated from the university as an art historian, pretending here that sge is an art dealer who she in general actually is. With no artistic talent, Hanna became an art dealer.

The novel opens with a scene when she sees on her father’s laptop a photo with cut-off head of a certain man on it. Hanna knows that her father and her uncle are capable of violence. She knows that in a world where her father lives, men do what they want, just to achieve their goals. But Hanna is not sure what this photo means. Maybe her father is a murderer and that he had cut off a man's head, but it is possible that someone is threatening him, frightening the old man. The girl is nervous, but does not dare to ask her father directly.

Debut novelist Mian is a man, but the novel’s written from the point of view of a woman, and it is clear that Mian coped with this challenge. While reading the book, you just do not feel that the author is of tune somewhere, or sings flat. Hanna Mehdi is a young woman, with woman's emotions, female logic, with opposition to the world of violent men, with a love of the father, which only a daughter may have. Mian made the heroine of the book not an artist, a person who creates art, but a dealer who is selling art. Choice of Hanna’s occupation emphasizes communication with her father (he and she are working with money), and some sort sensitivity, which should be characterized by a person who is close to the artistic community.

Hanna accepts everything that her father had done, forgives him, but at the same time she leaves the family. Violence, power, big games - it's not for her. The family finally broke up. Hannah is a person of modern times, a person who lives according to rational consciousness. Her father Baba is a man of the past, living by the laws of his ancestors. The banker’s daughter does not accept these old rules, she starts a new life, but she did not deny from her father, so, at the same time, she continues ancient traditions.

The novel is interesting as a slice of the British art world, and as a slice of life of high society in Britain. The author looks at the world of art and the world of big finance through the lens of the Asian world.

Novel, perhaps, does not have enough layers. The book is fairly linear, as flashbacks rather complement and reveal the characters, rather than add any story lines. Also, like it or not, but only Hanna and her father are people with good qualities, all the other characters are like the selection of almost cartoonish villains, even without guns.

Simple, but at the same time catchy prose covers simplicity of the story. The end here is open whuch just suits this book. It asks a lot of difficult questions answers for whose is not an easy find.

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