Noreen Masud suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder: the product of a profoundly disrupted and unstable childhood. It flattens her emotions, blanks out parts of her memory, and colours her world with anxiety. Undertaking a pilgrimage around Britain's flatlands, seeking solace and belonging, she weaves her impressions of the natural world with poetry, folklore and history, and with recollections of her own early life.
Readers who have voyeuristically come to expect detailed revelations made for Instagram may find themselves bored by Masud’s hazy retelling, but she is doing something vital by selectively withholding intimate recollections of the violence she experienced ... Masud weaves in poems and excerpts from English literature to tie the disparate strands of her life together and ground the story in history. Initially, this braiding feels fragmented, as if she were trying to fit together pieces from different puzzles. But though these three strands are not necessarily compatible, they do prove complementary ... By its end, Masud has become a master of juxtaposition.
By the end of this sorrowful, tender, sometimes beautiful book, it becomes apparent that it is not those mythic Lahore fields that Masud has been trying to find, but rather a terrestrial analogue for her own sense of desolation.
A Flat Place is a slim volume, but that belies its expansive scope ... [Masud] is intensely curious about the fictional quality of postcolonial characterisations of home and country ... Masud is too clever a writer to offer a straightforward narrative of illness and recovery, in which landscape offers comfort. It would be easy to assume that A Flat Place, dealing as it does in the currency of trauma, racism and exile, is a bleak book. But this memoir is too interested in what it means and feels to be alive in a landscape to be anything other than arresting and memorable.