Monday, December 4, 2023

Mini-Review: The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi
Zando/Gillian Flynn Books
Publication Date: July 11th, 2023
Hardcover. 288 pages.

About The Centre:
"Anisa Ellahi dreams of being a translator of ‘great works of literature’, but instead mostly spends her days subtitling Bollywood films in her flat in London while living off her parents’ generous allowance and discussing the ‘underside of life’ with her best friend, Naima. Then she meets Adam, who has successfully leveraged his savant-level aptitude for languages into an enviable career. At first, this only adds to her sense of inadequacy, but when Adam learns to speak Urdu with native fluency practically overnight, Anisa forces him to reveal his secret.

Adam tells Anisa about the Centre, an elite, invite-only program that guarantees absolute fluency in any language in just ten days. Sceptical but intrigued, Anisa enrols. Stripped of her belongings and all contact with the outside world, she undergoes the Centre's strange and rigorous processes. But as she enmeshes herself further within the organisation, seduced by all that it’s made possible, she soon realizes the disturbing, hidden cost of its services.

The Centre is fascinating story of language and identity that pulls readers in to a mysterious method of language learning. We follow translator Anisa Ellahi as she aspires to become a great translator, but currently feels stuck in her role translating Bollywood films... until she meets Adam, who seems to be able to pick up languages to the point of native fluency in shockingly short time. 

What I liked: I love languages and learning languages (though I don't spend nearly as much time studying as I'd like to), so this entire story and concept centered around language was something I found myself really drawn to and enjoying. I was also completely fascinated by the Centre itself and their secretive and unique methods of teaching people in their elite language intensives. This aspect of the story is what I liked the most, probably. I was also intrigued to learn about Anisa's background with languages and how she viewed translation, and I think the author did a great job of providing some complex commentary on language and translation in the modern age. There is also a bit of a dark twist at the end of this book that I thought actually fit the story really well, though it could be hit or miss for some people. 

What I didn't like: It felt as though there was a lot of extraneous... stuff (?) in this book. There were sections where I found my attention completely drifting away from the story, and then when it returned I realized I hadn't really missed anything. I also, unfortunately, really disliked Anisa for most of the story. I found her pretty annoying and her attitude towards a lot of people and things was really frustrating. I appreciated her general curiosity and I can understand where some of her reactions to things originate due to her background, but she was just not the greatest narrator and is probably what prevented this story from getting a higher rating from me. 

Overall, I've given The Centre 3 stars.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds sort of strange but interesting. Not sure it's for me, but I'm glad I read your review!