Today The Last White Man is published. A powerful exploration of love, loss and fear set against a backdrop of racial discrimination, this latest novel from internationally bestselling author Mohsin Hamid is succinct and thought provoking.
Consisting of only 180 pages, The Last White Man is a compelling, modern day fable. One morning Anders, a white man, wakes up to find that his skin has turned a deep brown. He does not recognise his reflection as it stares back at him. Initially for days Anders hides away from society, messaging his work at a gym to say he is sick. He eventually reaches out to Oona, an old friend from school and now a ‘friend with benefits.’
The emotional turmoil Anders experiences following his transformation is written in a omniscient, almost casual style, enhancing the poignancy of his feelings. It also succinctly reveals his own bias and the bias of the society he is living in:
Anders put off telling his father, why he was not sure, maybe because his father had always seemed a little disappointed in him, and this would add to his disappointment
Knowing he cannot hide away forever, and with reports of more individuals across the land turning from white to dark skinned beginning to surface, Anders reluctantly starts to reveal his new self to the people around him. The reaction of his boss and how Anders cowers to his boss, I found particularly unnerving:
To his boss, Anders explained his situation, which was not unique, nor contagious, as far as anyone knew, and returned to the gym after a week off, and his boss was waiting for him at the entrance, bigger than Anders remembered him, though obviously the same size, and his boss looked him over and said, “I would have killed myself.”
Like Mohsin Hamid’s Booker Prize nominated novel Exit West, The Last White Man is also a simple and compelling love story full of magical realism. I feel that Hamid’s use of magical realism is very deliberate as through his narrative he reminds us that reality is something that we have to be constantly questioning.
For me The Last White Man was full of meaning and it really gripped me. In my view it a very important novel as it forces us to confront our fears and our bias head on, regardless of that bias being conscious or unconscious. Yes, this novel is an exploration of prejudice and race, yet another reason why I feel The Last White Man is such a powerful and important narrative is that the fear, bias and prejudice portrayed can also be associated to the fear, bias and prejudice individuals and society have regarding other protected characteristics, such as disability.
However I do have to say the ending was a bit lost on me. When I reached the end of the book I thought “oh is that it?” But I do wonder if that is more to do with me and maybe I just missed something. Hence I intend to go back and reread The Last White Man. Full of meaning, it is definitely a book that needs read and reread.
Thank you Anne Cater for inviting me to the blog tour of The Last White Man. Thank you also to Hamish Hamilton for my advance, gifted copy in return for my honest review. This is a novel that will stay with me. To follow the blog tour and read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers, please see below.
The Last White Man is released in hardback on 11 August 2022.