Broken Verses
Goodreads ratings
3.59 / 5

"Broken Verses" Summary

By Kamila Shamsie

fiction | 352 pages | Published in 2005

Fourteen years ago, famous Pakistani activist Samina Akram disappeared. Two years earlier, her lover, Pakistan's greatest poet, was beaten to death by government thugs. In present-day Karachi, her daughter Aasmaani has just discovered a letter in the couple's private code—a letter that could only have been written recently. Aasmaani is thirty, single, drifting from job to job. Always left behind whenever Samina followed the Poet into exile, she had assumed that her mother's disappearance was simply another abandonment. Then, while working at Pakistan's first independent TV station, Aasmaani runs into an old friend of Samina's who gives her the first letter, then many more. Where could the letters have come from? And will they lead her to her mother? Merging the personal with the political, Broken Verses is at once a sharp, thrilling journey through modern-day Pakistan, a carefully coded mystery, and an intimate mother-daughter story that asks how we forgive a mother who leaves.  


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A woman uncovers her mother's mysterious past through a collection of letters and poetry.


"Broken Verses" is a captivating novel by Kamila Shamsie that delves into the complexities of love, loss, and the search for identity. Set in Karachi, Pakistan, the story unfolds against a backdrop of political turmoil and personal introspection. The narrative is rich with emotion and thought-provoking themes, making it a compelling read for those interested in literary fiction with a touch of mystery.

Brief Synopsis

The plot revolves around Aasmaani Inqalab, a young woman haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Samina Akram. Aasmaani, or Aas, is determined to unravel the truth behind her mother's vanishing act, which is intertwined with her mother's involvement in a radical political group.


The story is primarily set in Karachi, a city pulsating with life and teeming with a diverse population. The vibrant streets of Karachi serve as a backdrop to the characters' personal journeys, adding depth and richness to the narrative.

Main Characters

The novel features a diverse cast of characters, each with their own complexities and motivations.

AasmaaniA young woman grappling with her mother's disappearance and her own quest for identity
Samina AkramAasmaani's mother, a poet with a mysterious past and ties to a radical political group
EdAasmaani's friend and confidant, who provides unwavering support throughout her journey

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-5: Unraveling the Past

Aasmaani, an aspiring poet, is haunted by her mother's disappearance. She discovers a diary that sheds light on her mother's radical political past, leading her to question everything she thought she knew about her.

Chapter 6-10: The Search for Truth

Aasmaani delves deeper into her mother's past, uncovering secrets and confronting the complexities of love and betrayal. As she unravels the mysteries of her mother's life, she also discovers her own inner strength and resilience.

Chapter 11-15: Political Intrigue

The novel delves into the political landscape of Karachi, intertwining personal narratives with the broader socio-political context. Aasmaani's journey becomes entwined with the turbulent history of her city, adding layers of complexity to her quest for truth.

Chapter 16-20: Confronting the Past

As Aasmaani delves deeper into her mother's past, she uncovers startling revelations that challenge her perceptions of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The narrative delves into the complexities of human relationships and the enduring impact of personal and political choices.

Main Events

  • Aasmaani discovers her mother's diary, setting off a chain of events that lead her to uncover the truth about her mother's past.
  • Aasmaani's exploration of her mother's radical political involvement forces her to confront the complexities of love, loyalty, and sacrifice.
  • The novel delves into the turbulent political landscape of Karachi, weaving together personal narratives with broader socio-political themes.

Themes and Insights

Identity and Belonging

The novel explores the complexities of identity and belonging, as Aasmaani grapples with her mother's past and her own sense of self. The search for identity is intricately woven with the broader socio-political context of Karachi, adding depth and nuance to the narrative.

Love and Loss

At its core, "Broken Verses" is a poignant exploration of love and loss, as Aasmaani navigates the complexities of her mother's disappearance and the enduring impact of her absence. The novel delves into the enduring power of love and the profound impact of loss on the human experience.

Political Turmoil

Against the backdrop of Karachi's political turmoil, the novel delves into the complexities of radical political involvement and its enduring impact on personal lives. The intertwining of personal narratives with broader socio-political themes adds depth and richness to the narrative.

Reader's Takeaway

"Broken Verses" is a compelling and thought-provoking novel that delves into the complexities of love, loss, and the search for identity. Set against the vibrant backdrop of Karachi, the narrative weaves together personal journeys with broader socio-political themes, offering readers a captivating exploration of the human experience.


Kamila Shamsie's "Broken Verses" is a masterfully crafted novel that delves into the enduring impact of love, loss, and the search for identity. With richly drawn characters and a captivating narrative, the novel offers readers a thought-provoking exploration of personal and political complexities. Set against the backdrop of Karachi, the story unfolds with emotional depth and nuance, making it a compelling read for those interested in literary fiction with a touch of mystery.

Broken Verses FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Broken Verses'?

    Broken Verses is a contemporary fiction novel.

  2. Who is the author of 'Broken Verses'?

    The author of 'Broken Verses' is Kamila Shamsie.

  3. What is the main theme of 'Broken Verses'?

    The main themes of 'Broken Verses' include love, loss, family secrets, and political turmoil.

  4. Is 'Broken Verses' part of a series?

    No, 'Broken Verses' is a standalone novel and not part of a series.

  5. What is the setting of 'Broken Verses'?

    The novel is set in Karachi, Pakistan, and spans different time periods.