If The Golden Legend documents agonizing political and sectarian realities, it is also masterful and compelling fiction, intricately layering symbols and parallels, unspooling its plot in dramatic twists until the very last sentence, and revealing the deep interconnections between the themes of power, principle, love, and loss that underlie those realities. Since the November election, American writers have anxiously questioned the role and value of fiction in the face of national exigency. The Golden Legend demonstrates its necessity.
I know it’s only still May, but I’m already willing to predict that The Golden Legend could be the best book you read this year ... indelibly intertwined with the atrocious violence and despicable tyranny are moments of wrenching beauty ... In a further stroke of literary brilliance, Aslam creates a book within his book, a 987-page masterpiece that haunts Aslam’s 'Legend' from beginning to end ... Aslam both severs and reunites connections, destroys and reclaims characters, to offer readers an unparalleled experience that both rightfully condemns and poignantly honors the worst and best of our shared humanity.
As in all his previous novels, Aslam mingles beauty and pain, but this time he gives the beauty more breathing space than he has for a while ... Aslam is in many ways a traditional realist: he wanders into the head of one character after another at will. But he’s writing a form of realism in which individual psychology is often secondary to larger symbolic structures and archetypes...If character is secondary to archetype, this reflects the reality of a world in which the individual is frequently secondary to collective ideology. Ultimately, Aslam doesn’t allow this ideology to triumph, because the consolation offered by both the visual beauty and the coincidences comes in the service of a redemptive moral view ... [an] exquisite, painful book.