In the Company of Strangers

(50 customer reviews)

£8.99

  • Author Name: Awais Khan
  • Publication Date: 28/07/2019
  • Format: Paperback

In stock (can be backordered)

ISBN: 9781912881482

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Lahore – a city of secretive glamour, whispering elites, and sordid affairs. A city brought to its knees by terrorism.

Forty one-year old Mona has almost everything: money, friends, social status… everything except for freedom in the repressed Pakistani society. Languishing in her golden cage, she craves a sense of belonging… of love.

Desperate for emotional release, she turns to an indulgent friend who introduces her to an alternate 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.

Awais Khan currently lives in Pakistan. He is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He has studied Novel Writing and Editing at the prestigious Faber Academy in London. His work has appeared in the Missing Slate Magazine, MODE, Daily Times and Aleph Review. Awais is the Founder of the Writing Institute, the largest institute for Creative Writing in Pakistan and has been interviewed by several leading television channels about his work.

50 reviews for In the Company of Strangers

  1. Anita Chaudhuri, Journalist (Psychologies Magazines; The Guardian)

    In the Company of Strangers is a beautifully observed novel that opens a window on a milieu of Pakistani society that is seldom written about. His storytelling transports you to a far-flung world but the dilemmas his characters face will be familiar wherever you live.

  2. Faiqa Mansab, Author of This House of Clay & Water (Penguin India)

    In the Company of Strangers is a stunning novel. Awais Khan’s writing is fierce and compelling. It’s a novel to be savoured, a debut to cherish.

  3. Miranda Husain, Writer & Journalist (Formerly Daily Times, Express News)

    Awais Khan’s debut novel offers a rollercoaster ride through Lahore as the playground of the rich. We get to peek behind the expensive and heavily embroidered curtains of Mona’s home to observe life inside the most gilded of cages. And see it all, we do. From the diamonds, the tantrums and tiaras to booze-fuelled domestic violence and adultery. But this is not a tale of women destroyed so much as fighting back. Against social convention and each other. There is Mona’s erstwhile bestie with whom she shares a dark secret. Her battle-axe mother-in-law who ultimately comes to see what her son is. And the high society ladies who live to lunch and take each other down. In the Company of Strangers also lifts the lid on the high-end fashion industry where it is not just clothes that are bought and sold. And, this being Pakistan, terrorism enters into the mix. That there are no winners or losers in these competing narratives of extremism and excess is what sets Khan’s novel apart.

  4. A.A. Chaudhuri, Author of The Scribe (Endeavour Media)

    From the first to the last page, Khan’s debut grips you and leaves you wanting for more. An utterly compelling insight into Pakistani high society, the glamour, the superficiality, the secrets, the pressures forced upon the young upper class to confine themselves to a certain ideal, even now in the twenty-first century. The description is so vivid, and written with such authenticity, you feel like you are there, walking the streets of Lahore, experiencing its sights and smells, living every moment. The conflict Mona faces between finding true love and staying true to Lahori society ideals is heart-wrenching, but at the same time this is what makes it so enthralling. A must-read for summer 2019 and I can’t wait to see what Khan produces next!

  5. Sara Naveed, Author of Undying Affinity (Penguin India)

    Honest, thoughtful and provocative. This book speaks volumes about confronting the failures, dark whims and moral ambiguities that we spend much of our day-to-day lives avoiding. Awais’s writing will definitely instigate reflection and recognition in readers and at the same time create space for new discussion.

  6. Laaleen Sukhera, Editor & Contributor of Austenistan (Bloomsbury India, Bloomsbury Publishing UK)

    A flavourful interpretation of a social world that is fascinatingly flawed yet immensely familiar; Awais Khan plunges his multi-layered characters into a sizzling tandoor of intrigue’.

  7. Sidra F. Sheikh, Author of The Light Blue Jumper (Mongrel Books)

    Khan has a deft touch as he takes the reader through the slums and the mansions of Lahore with equal attention, every detail and nuance jumping out of the page. He uses the glittering but brittle world of lavish parties, drawing room intrigue and gossip in an upscale segment of Lahore society as a stark backdrop to the violence that is always there, lurking, just beyond the page, until one day, it can no longer be brushed aside. He paints present day Lahore with a richness of tone and a depth of understanding that brings it to life with all the fissures and the fault lines, whether it’s class, age, gender or religiosity, that threaten to tear the beautiful city, along with the lives of Mona and Ali apart. A captivating and thoroughly enjoyable read.

  8. Taha Kehar, Author of Typically Tanya (Harper Collins India)

    Observant, poignant and exceptionally nuanced, In the Company of Strangers opens a vista onto Lahore — a city of contradictions that survives on resilience. Khan’s debut novel deftly portrays the complexities, pathos and small joys that coexist in a metropolis haunted by terror. By turns familiar and frightening, the novel offers a realistic view of how people live and love amid chaos.

  9. Kairen Cullen, Author of Splitting the Difference & Understand your Teen (Allen & Unwin)

    Roald Dahl said about his book-loving character Matilda: “the books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.” ‘In the Company of Strangers’ exemplifies Dahl’s sentiment, offering readers an insight into the culture of wealth and fashion in Pakistan’s capital Lahore. The value afforded youth, commercial standards of beauty and traditional, patriarchal lifestyles made challenging reading for me but nevertheless I enjoyed the many twists and turns, the relational politics and the drama. Awais has created an original story that entertains and shocks in equal measure.

  10. Kirsten Arcadio, Author of the Borderliners trilogy & Zeitgeist

    Khan is a natural storyteller. Allow him to whisk you away to Lahori high society complete with its intrigue and gossip. But keep your wits about you. Beneath the glamour he uncovers a dark underbelly of social unrest, poverty and chaos. Stunningly visual, Khan reveals a world that for many of us is a world elsewhere, one to watch with morbid curiosity, fascination, envy but also shock and horror. Just take a peek and you won’t want to look away.

  11. Paula Robinson, Author

    From the unforgettable Prologue onwards, I found myself drawn by Awais Khan’s wonderful way with words and keen eye for detail into the contradictory worlds of Lahore: its underbelly and its high society. The human stories resonated on so many levels as I read, but it’s the details of life in Pakistan today that still haunt me. Khan’s gift is leading you quietly, showing you this world as if discreetly lifting a curtain for you to peer around.

  12. Damien Hine, Author

    This is an excellent debut novel from Awais Khan. Bringing together his own upbringing in Lahore with a keen mind and talented writing hand, the tale feels real, grounded and compelling. He had my attention from beginning to end.

  13. Alex Morrall, Author

    In the Company of Strangers’ is a clear and well-paced literary novel which takes an almost Jane Austen world from party to party only casually aware of the world and the fact that they are moving ever closer to their own tragedy. A beautifully-written evocative opening scene through the eyes of a suicide bomber unfolds into a compelling story rich in detail of Pakistani political and social tensions. Khan provides a unique perspective on the clash of values from high society and the fashion world; to the different forces at work in a terrorist cell, and then again within a marriage and a friendship. Its themes are pertinent for our times, but the book remains dramatic and engaging.

    The novel plays out with a solid and convincing deck of characters, my favourite of which was Niqhat and all of her contradictions, her insights into her son’s mind and her battle between her own authority and belief in women’s rights. The conversations with her were particularly entertaining and telling of the complexity of society’s failings.

  14. Hifza Jalil

    “In the Company of Strangers” is, by far, one of the best novels that I have read in a while — and I read a lot. The descriptions of Lahore and the societal strata in modern Pakistan are captivating. The author has crafted captivating, multi-dimensional characters, none of which is perfect, but each of which I felt drawn to, in a different way.
    This book is marvelously written. Every other chapter is told in a different style, from another character’s point of view (the alternating chapters are told from the protagonist’s point of view). The changes in tone are extremely realistic, and showcase the author’s obivious talent.
    I found the first couple of chapters a little confusing, at the outset, but they became clear as the book continued — in fact, when I finished the book, I immediately turned to and reread the beginning. I have never done this before.
    I very highly recommend this book, which is, in reality, a colorful fable.

  15. Donna Knows Everything (Blog)

    Awais Khan’s writing does not disappoint, making it so easy for the reader to breeze through the entire text (although one would end up wishing it wasn’t over so soon!)

    A much welcome narrative, constructed with moving sentiment & indelible detailing. Beautifully scripted as it is, Khan manages to reach the perfect balance between descriptive exposition & plot progress.

    Here is another reason to proudly claim the Pakistani heritage- more power to the writer, for his writing has left wanting more!

  16. Asaif Khan

    Absolutely stunning. An intricate look at Pakistani high society and how stifling it can be for people. This book is excellent for people in the West who want to enjoy a different take on Pakistan and the region.

  17. Atyaba Javed

    A walk down to the streets of Lahore, and oh how beautifully every single detail is described. The writing style is captivating and the story is the best treat of the year so far…

  18. Mohd Lakhani

    Having received an advance copy from Awais was a surprise gift that I would cherish for quite sometime to come.

    Written with a captivating narrative it keeps the reader committed till the last word.

    Truly a goodread. Highly recommended.

  19. Hunaiza Iqbal

    Captivating story. Reading it for the second time.

  20. Talha (Goodreads)

    This novel immediately grasps you as a solid writing. It is easy to fall in love with Awais’s writing. It is polished and gripping, and it stays with you long after the reading has ended.

    There is not a single excess word in all his writing; there is a purpose for every word and every phrase. This style of crisp writing reminds of Somerset Maugham.

    I picked it because it is set in Lahore. I was eager to see how this young writer has depicted one the famous and historic cities of the world. I am glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. How city’s geography, secrets and history was used as a backdrop against the personal and emotional story of Mona is quite remarkable.

    Most novels, published in recent years, that are set in Pakistan focus on the terrorism and political unrest this country has faced for over a decade, like Omar Shahid Hamid’s The Prisoner. It was refreshing to read a love story from the same country for a change.

  21. Kirsten Arcadio

    Awais Khan’s debut novel gives you a fascinating insight into Lahori high society. It’s like being let into a best-kept secret, one that outsiders aren’t usually allowed to share.

  22. Mariam Saeed Khan

    The way the first chapter began, making the reader grip on to the pages, it can be said that the reader found themselves in the story rather than beside it. An upcoming author with a unique voice who understand the extremes of both the worlds (the description, the Urdu diction in it and local culture and people) ; poor to upper middle class and upper class. Mona and Ali’s character seem real on many ways and the way local language is used with high powered diction like a classic read; one can say that the author-Awais Khan- knows where he is going with his characters for the plot is strong and the characterization. Especially the way the characters communicate with each other and dialogues as Ali varies from Mona and the mysterious character of Meera Siddique. Bilal seems like the typical man victim of most elite class. Lahore is much more than food and terrorism. The relationships explored in it, how people are termed to their circumstances and living life destined or by choices, all these questions are day to day in our lives; are about the untold tales of lives of people though it’s fictional it doesn’t seem like this. It’s more like fighting for what makes you happy and breaking the chained events in one’s life. Highly recommended book for summers – 2019

  23. Zain Tarin

    I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of this novel. It is genuinely one of the best books to come out of Pakistan in recent years. Awais Khan is a compelling new voice from the subcontinent and in his novel, he explores the lives of a certain class of people that is seldom written about. If you want to know what goes on behind the scenes of the lives of Pakistan’s high society, then this is the book for you. An eye-opening account and a sure shot bestseller. This is one for the ages!

  24. Kairen Cullen

    Roald Dahl said about his book-loving character Matilda: “the books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.” ‘In the Company of Strangers’ exemplifies Dahl’s sentiment, offering readers an insight into the culture of wealth and fashion in Pakistan’s capital Lahore. The value afforded youth, commercial standards of beauty and traditional, patriarchal lifestyles made challenging reading for me but nevertheless, I enjoyed the many twists and turns, the relational politics and the drama. Awais has created an original story that entertains and shocks in equal measure.

  25. Shahida Perveen

    *Mind-blown*
    I like writers who are meticulous to the core and Awais Khan has done it well. “In the company of strangers”, scrupulously captures the essence of Lahorian strata and propels its reader into a world of infidelity, deception, and apprehensions. Delectable till the last page, I hope this book proves to be a chartbuster.

  26. Minaal Mohsin

    Beautiful and enthralling, In the Company of Strangers paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to live in Lahore amid the glamour of the upper class while portraying a much more sober reality as well. I loved the way the city was described and the bold writing style of Awais Khan. Honestly can’t wait to have the book in my hands!

  27. Shahid Mir

    Gripping and almost graphic. It was like I was there. Characters so well brought out. Can’t wait to read it all!! Lahore is so well depicted, it was like watching a film! Congratulations Awais Khan and can’t wait for the book to be in my hands :).

  28. Syed Wajih Ul

    So exited…..can wait to get my hands on this book….finally something courageous that expounds the secret life of the Pakistani elites.

  29. Waseem Iqbal

    I have to say this book stands out from others in comparison. The story was exceptionally well written giving it a unique style.
    I enjoyed it so much that I went out to buy another copy.

  30. Farheen Lalwani

    A gripping narrative. The words create a vivid picture of what’s happening in the conservative society of Lahore. This gives you yet another perspective of the Pakistani people. A fabulous debut by Awais and the first one on the bucket list of readings for 2019.

  31. Iman

    Astounding. This book takes you on a believable and immersive journey through Pakistani high society. The reader gets a real sense of how difficult that world can be to deal with, especially for a woman.

  32. Rahima Noor

    Writing a book is not an overnight process. Awais has done a fantastic job with the book. I’ve read the first three chapters and just can’t wait to get my hands on the book! It’s so absorbing and attention grabbing. The story sounds very unique and different from others. His writing style is also very different from others as I’ve read one of his other story published on Missing Slate. He has a professional approach to writing as a good writer never waits for someone else to come inspire him they themselves become an inspiration for others.

  33. Ujala Khan

    An excellent, glittering debut from Awais Khan. One that will certainly change the way we look at things in Pakistan. Rightfully one of the most highly anticipated debuts of the year! I was literally engrossed from start to finish!

  34. Farwa Afzaal

    In The Company Of Strangers is a promising book that will be the next NYT bestseller.

    A captivating story and a realistic base is what makes it very special to the readers.

    Best of luck for the book’s success!

    Looking forward to more and more from Awais Khan.

  35. Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)

    In The Company Of Strangers is set within the glittering elite social circles of Lahore where being invited to the right parties and being seen with the right people seem to be all that matters. However, in this novel, Khan swiftly takes us behind that facade.

  36. Khawar

    Guys, I need to talk about this book! What an absolutely brilliant book! I had heard about this book back in February and had been dying to read it! And it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a very bold and ruthless look into Pakistani high society and how in the midst of frivolous parties, life is still very grim for these people. They are rich and famous and yet so lonely. This novel exposes the conservative facade erected by Pakistani society and lays bare the grim underbelly. Pakistan is not your average shanty town, but people in the West will be surprised to see that life in the elite circles is quite similar to their own lives. A book that will certainly be climbing the bestseller charts, here’s a bright young author from our very own Pakistan. Exceptional in every sense of the word!

  37. Urooj Nasir

    Awais Khan’s debut novel tells a really interesting story which overall has been executed beautifully and that too with such thorough and descriptive vocabulary that it keeps you hooked till the end. Moreover, the writer gives an insight of the societal mindset and its influence present in Pakistan from a perspective of his own. The writer has been successful in pointing out deepening roots of conservative mentality into the elite class of Lahore and how often rebelling against it could have dire consequences

  38. Mahnam

    In the company of strangers is a story that swept me off my feet, just as Mona was swept off of hers by the tantalizing world of the rich and affluent. Awais Khan writes with a fierce and compelling voice and effortlessly weaves together a multifaceted story rife with engaging characters and beguiling narratives. This book whilst set in Lahore touches on universal themes such as love, longing and the desire to free oneself from one’s shackles. Khan writes with a vision and clarity that is refreshing to witness, and I can’t wait for whatever concoction he serves up next.

  39. Cliona Hammond

    I thoroughly enjoyed it, the story goes in a direction I didn’t see coming, its circular style of storytelling is very satisfying, I will certainly be buying his next novel.

  40. Muhammad Omer

    One of the best books I read in a while. The way in which various cultural differences in the city Lahore have been described and explained in the form of a story is mind-blowing. Definitely worth a read.

  41. Alex Sage

    From the first to the last page, Khan’s debut grips you and leaves you wanting for more. An utterly compelling insight into Pakistani high society, the glamour, the superficiality, the secrets, the pressures forced upon the young upper class to confine themselves to a certain ideal, even now in the twenty-first century. The description is so vivid and written with such authenticity, you feel like you are there, walking the streets of Lahore, experiencing its sights and smells, living every moment. The conflict Mona faces between finding true love and staying true to Lahori society ideals is heart-wrenching, but at the same time, this is what makes it so enthralling. A must-read for summer 2019 and I can’t wait to see what Khan produces next!

  42. Mansour Ahsan

    The major highlight for me in the book was how Lahore was shown. We don’t have that many fiction books based in Lahore (Mohsin Hamid’s The Moth Smoke is the other famous book based in Lahore) and to be able to read In the Company of Strangers took me back to my hometown, complete with it’s smells, sounds and sights. Thankfully, Awais stays away from stereotyping or generalizations and captures the essence of Lahore in his unique ways, which makes it for a refreshing read.

    Awais Khan does a beautiful job of recreating the scenes of life in Lahore and encapsulates the sensory experiences quite well.

  43. Meeta Bhasin

    An absolute page-turner! Beautifully written and transports you to Lahore and the scene being written about. What a story! I didn’t want the tale to end and look forward to reading more books by the author!

  44. Rebecca Woolston

    I don’t know a great deal about Pakistan in general, let alone the lives of wealthy Pakistanis. I must say that I’m guilty of imagining Pakistan to be a place of war and poverty so when I first read about this book, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to find out more.

    Awais Khan‘s debut novel, “In The Company of Strangers”, introduces us all to another side of the country, one you don’t tend to hear about in the newspapers. Khan helps us take an intricate look at the high society in Pakistan and what it’s really like to live amid the glamour of the upper class despite the threat of terrorism.

  45. Chris (Amazon Review)

    I enjoy learning about other cultures and societies and so I was immediately attracted to this book. It did not disappoint. Khan paints a vivid picture of Lahori elite society – the glamour, the money, the lavish parties and decadent lifestyle as well as the conflict between love and duty felt by many like Mona, one of the central characters – so much so you feel like you yourself have been transported to that world. Will definitely be seeking out more titles by this new author.

  46. Zaeem Siddiqui

    In the Company of Strangers is a glittering debut. I absolutely loved how Kham presents an alternate view of Pakistan, introducing us to the wealthy side of Pakistan full of parties debauchery and glamour. It is a remarkably well written novel with excellent characterization and I could relate to a lot of the characters.

  47. Areej Jawad

    The story is well knitted and leaves no loose ends. The author reveals the characters by providing psychological insights. The flaws and qualities of a character are justified and painted very realistically. Lahore is presented in all its glory and splendour. It was a great book with a strong storyline which kept me hooked up till I finished it all.

  48. Robert Parker

    Topical, fascinating, utterly spellbinding – we are talking about a magnificent, emotional and beautifully written novel that exceeds all expectations. Fantastic!

  49. Asma

    In the Company of Strangers is a beautifully written novel that explores the secrets and lies of Pakistani high society. It provides such a contrast to what we generally read about Pakistan. I really liked both of the main characters and could really empathize with them. This novel exposes the hypocrisy of Pakistani society and does a great job in showcasing a part of Pakistani culture that people are generally not aware of. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone even remotely interested in high concept fiction. This is writing at its best.

  50. Soniah Kamal, award-winning author of Unmarriageable (Ballantine Books; Harper Collins) & An Isolated Incident (Fingerprint)

    Set in an urban contemporary Pakistan, Awais Khan’s debut novel In the Company of Strangers is a thoroughly enjoyable, sensitive and fast-paced read about the choices we make or are forced to make. Khan explores delicate issues with a deft touch through complicated characters. A riveting debut!

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