I am so thrilled to be a part of the tour for the audiobook release of In The Company of Strangers by Awais Khan, narrated by Esh Alladi. This is Awais’ first novel in audiobook, published by Isis Audio on the 1st of April, and it is captivating! You can order your copy here. Thanks to Isis Audio for sending me a free audiobook ARC in exchange for an honest review.
In the glittering world of Pakistan’s elite, all is not what it seems…
Mona has almost everything: money, friends, social status… everything except for freedom. Languishing in her golden cage, she craves a sense of belonging…
Desperate for emotional release, she turns to a friend who introduces her to a world of glitter, glamour, covert affairs and drugs. There she meets Ali, a physically and emotionally wounded man, years younger than her.
Heady with love, she begins a delicate game of deceit that spirals out of control and threatens to shatter the deceptive facade of conservatism erected by Lahori society, and potentially destroy everything that Mona has ever held dear.
In The Company of Strangers is a glitzy debut that plunges into the world of Pakistan’s elite, a life filled with glamour and a head turn away from the rules. This captivating novel beautifully describes the backdrop of Pakistan while building upon two main characters from different societal classes. Mona is a caged women living in a traditionally misogynistic world, a women trapped within a stale marriage with a man that uses her and throws her aside. She’s a strong woman but Bibal, her husband, breaks her down mainly using psychological tactics. I couldn’t help but connect with Mona, while also sympathising with her at the same time. On the flip side of the societal coin is Ali, after shock family event, he is swung into Mona’s world. As he acclimatises himself within the world of the elite, his life becomes submerged within a Lahori High Society drama that you, yourself can’t help being tantalized by.
Awais has penned a attention grabbing atmospheric novel, that is both gorgeous and dark at times. The backdrop of Pakistan creates an alluring that entraps the reader within it’s literary setting. I could feel the warmth on my skin and imagine the twinkle of my surroundings. As you can imagine, it’s very well described and written, with a beautiful prose that nudged me further into the novel. I also enjoyed the mainly dual narrative, with flecks of other narratives sprinkled throughout. The flicking between narratives worked really well, flowed eloquently and complimented one another. I just couldn’t help but love the people Ali and Mona were, they were both created with such depth with an injection of honesty and tradition. Awais has created a perfect balance of passion, humanity and scandal, I loved it!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, the feel of it, the execution of it! I adored every single page, I finished this layered novel completely shocked and utterly bereft as a whole. The first time that I read In The Company Of Strangers, I was mesmerised by the provocativeness and emotion of the writing, the atmospheric alluring and vividness of Mona and Ali’s world – this has been brought into a further dimension but the talented Esh Alladi, who has taken on the voice of many characters, captivating the listeners in a world of elitism and poverty. Esh’s voice gives an extra layering of depth to the storyline that sweeps you away in a wave of all that glitters is gold but also reminds you of the undercurrent of those who are hanging on for survival. I think, the partnership of Awais’ words and Esh’s voice has created an importantly powerful listen, one that will shock you and leave you with your heart in your mouth. This is Esh’s first book narration but I have a strong feeling that it won’t be his last!
Awais Khan is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He is also an alum of Faber Academy. He teaches creative writing in Pakistan as part of the Writing Institute and has delivered lectures at Durham University, American University of Dubai, Canadian University of Dubai to name a few. He has appeared on BBC World Service, Dubai Eye, Voice of America, City42, Cambridge Radio, Samaa TV, Indus TV, PTV Home and several other radio and TV channels. His work has appeared in The Aleph Review, The Hindu, The Missing Slate etc.
He is the author of In the Company of Strangers (published by Simon & Schuster, The Book Guild and Isis Audio) and No Honour (published by Orenda Books in Summer 2021). He is represented by Annette Crossland.
Esh Alladi is an actor who trained at LAMDA and has a wide range of stage experience. His theatre credits include: Hobson’s Choice (Royal Exchange), Rutherford and Son (Crucible Theatre), Absolute Hell (National Theatre) and Twelfth Night (Royal Shakespeare Company). Esh is also no stranger to the screen and some of his TV credits include: Anthony (BBC), Unprecedented (BBC), A Confession (ITV), Casualty (BBC), Frankie (BBC) and EastEnders (BBC). He won a UK Theatre Award in 2019 for Best Supporting Performance for his role in Hobson’s Choice.