“A Beautiful Lie” Irfan Master

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). First published in the UK in 2011. American edition published September 1, 2012. Albert Whitman & Company. 302 pp. (Includes Glossary, Maps of India before and after the Partition, and Author’s Historical Notes).

In 1947, India was partitioned off by the British to form Pakistan and East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh). The choice of dividing the country on the basis of religion caused tremendous upheaval. Bitter infighting arose amongst the previously unbiased Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Suddenly India was no longer united but divided by religion, with over 1 million people losing their lives to the violence of the time.

We are brought into this world of change in “A Beautiful Lie.” Bilal’s father is dying, and he doesn’t want his father to know the problems being faced by his beloved India. Partition is coming, but Bilal hopes if his father is kept ignorant of the news, he will die peacefully and not from a broken heart. He plans to lie about what is going on in the village and the world to make sure this happens.

To help him in his lie, Bilal enlists the aid of his three best friends. They are all from different religions but work together to keep Bilal’s secret. Despite the antagonism arising in the village for those of different religions, Bilal and his friends stay close and loving towards each other. As the Day of Partition approaches, the unease in the village escalates into mob violence, with Bilal and his friends caught in the middle. Both he and his father love India and wish her to remain the same, but Change has come and there’s nothing anyone can do to stem the tide of violence.

“A Beautiful Lie” does a very good job explaining what was going on both in the minds of those wanting India to stay the same, and those wanting Change. Middle school students will learn much from Bilal’s story.

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