Meet the author: Tahmima Anam

The Bones of Grace book

We'd like to introduce you to Tahmima Anam and her novel The Bones of Grace – a romantic tragedy of love, migration, and the search for identity. Find out more about the book and Tahmima below.

About the book

Zubaida is on a journey to unearth the past; a journey that takes her away from the comfort of the corridors of Harvard. It means returning to the very landscape of history – from the scorching deserts of Pakistan to the bones of an ancient whale.

Her travels carry her back to Bangladesh, and the dark horrors of a ship-breaking yard. Here, deep inside a beached ocean liner, lies the key to her story. This quest to the deep may be steeped in mystery and tragedy; but it also offers salvation, and a way back to the man she loves.

Echoing with loneliness and longing, The Bones of Grace is a story of lost love and conflicted identity; of the urgent need to discover who we are, before we can truly belong anywhere and truly love anyone.

Praise for The Bones of Grace and Tahmima Anam

“Glowing and graceful.” – Guardian

“Intimate, confessional, alluring.” – Financial Times

“One of the most impressive novelists of her generation.” – The Times

About the author

Tahmima Anam's debut novel, A Golden Age, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book. Her follow-up, The Good Muslim, was shortlisted for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. In 2013, she was named one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, she now lives in London.

Tahmima Aman

Meet Tahmima Anam

What are you reading now?

I had a baby girl about three months ago, which means I mostly exist in a semi-hallucinatory state of sleep deprivation. When I am fully conscious, I find myself feeling guilty for bringing a child into these rather dark times. So I'm trying to read books that will help us make sense of the world — right now I'm halfway through Pankaj Mishra's Age of Anger, which is a brilliant and clear-eyed view of the events – going back centuries – that have led to this particular moment in history.

I find myself feeling guilty for bringing a child into these rather dark times. So I'm trying to read books that will help us make sense of the world.

What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air, a posthumously published memoir of the author's battle with cancer. It's also a tender reflection on medicine, love, and our shared humanity. After Kalanithi died, his wife completed the book, and the last chapter, which is written by her, is heartbreaking. I think I'll be giving this book out for years to come.

Is research a big part of your writing process?

Yes. This novel is partly set on a shipbreaking yard – a place where old ships are taken apart by hand. I had to wrangle my way in to one because the owners are extremely secretive. There were things about it that I could never have imagined, like the scale of the ships, the smell and sound of metal, the way the men chanted as they worked. Writing fiction is an act of imagination, but research can really fill in the details that bring a scene to life.

Do you have any peculiar writing rituals or habits?

Since having children I've become a lot more disciplined about the way I work. I used to write everything in longhand with this particular pen in a series of particular notebooks. Now the pen is lost, probably lodged in a sofa cushion somewhere in the house, and I type straight into the computer. I have, however, held on to my afternoon treat, which is Green Tea Mochi, a tiny, magical morsel of green tea ice cream wrapped in a chewy rice pudding wrapper. I cannot convey in words the extent of my obsession with this Japanese snack.

Could you describe the room that you write in?

I used to write at home, but we live in a small flat and the children have taken over every available inch of space. So I wrote this novel at Second Home, a co-working space just off Brick Lane. It was full of aspiring entrepreneurs so I would overhear them on the phone making big-money deals or trying to market the latest gadget (jewellery that reads your mood, anyone?). It was great being surrounded by people who weren't writers because it meant I could just tune everything out and focus on transporting myself to somewhere else. The space is also gorgeous, with curved walls and beautiful mismatched furniture, and they serve an excellent lunch.

What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

Read obsessively. There is no better training for writing than reading. Read with an awareness of how the novelist has put together her work. Try to see the scaffolding that lies within the plot. Try to understand why the sentences have the rhythm and cadence they do. And then, of course, you must find your own story and voice.

Tahmima Aman backlist

Book giveaway

We ask all winners to share their thoughts about the book on the discussion thread. Anyone who has read The Bones of Grace can post on the thread. Everyone who posts their detailed feedback by midday 20 March will be entered into a draw to win a £100 Love2shop voucher.

This giveaway is sponsored by Canongate