Favourite Lines: ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid

Dear readers,

Isn’t it a beautiful moment when you read the first line of a book and connect with it instantly? I recently started reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, and within the first line, it somehow found its way onto my list of favourite books.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

Exit West is the kind of book I can’t help but read as a writer more than a reader, admiring each carefully constructed sentence. Today I thought I would share with you a couple of my favourite lines, starting with the opening line.


In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in class and did not speak to her.

– page 1


The following evening helicopters filled the sky like birds startled after a gunshot, or by the blow of an axe on the base of their tree.

– page 32


One’s relationship to windows now changed in the city.

– page 68


…but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.

– page 94


If you haven’t read Exit West, I strongly urge you to go pick up a copy! What are you reading at the moment? Please let me know in the comments below–I’m always looking for suggestions.

As always, thank you for being here.


Tamara Drazic

7 thoughts on “Favourite Lines: ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid

  1. Sounds like a great book! I love how you included favorite lines. Chasing after those great lines in my memoir…
    I am reading Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg, East by Shelley Buck (memoir travel while coming of age in the 70s) and The Battle of Chibi (Red Cliffs) (selected translation of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms – Chinese thought, war, and culture at the end of the Han Dynasty). All very different from each other. Oh, and I am re-reading Jonathon Livingston Seagull to my kids!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You have my curiosity. I will have to look in to it. Great opening lines are so hard to write. I sometimes wonder if the writer knows what they did when they wrote them.

    I am not a fan of the Gunslinger books by Stephen King but aside from all that he wrote what may be the greatest opening sentence that I have ever read.

    In book one of The Dark Tower the opening sentence reads: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

    The book was not my type of read but that sentence was amazing. It told the reader everything and gave them a hint of things to follow. As a writer you want to give them enough to turn the page and Exit West did exactly that.

    Currently I am reading an oldie: The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton

    Liked by 3 people

  3. John Varley is my favorite sci-fi writer, and he writes some of the most imaginative fiction on the planet. His book Steel Beach is fantastic in regard to description.

    The opening line is, “In five years, the penis will be obsolete.” said the salesman.

    A writer knows that the first line is how you capture the reader’s attention. Varley does that very well, not only with Steel Beach, but with all his tales.

    Liked by 1 person

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