Later, the one who survives will remember that day as grey, but on the morning of 9 August itself both the man from Berlin, Konrad Weiss, and the schoolteacher, Hiroko Tanaka, step out of their houses and notice the perfect blueness of the sky, into which white smoke blooms from the chimneys of the munitions factories.
— Kamila Shamsie, from Burnt Shadows


Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
The opening sentence of Shamsie’s novel hints at both the proximal action – the death of one of the main characters – and at the ethical contradictions explored in this ambitious novel. The date, the German and Japanese names, and the munitions factory evoke war, specifically the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945. The contrast between the perfect blue sky and factory smoke sets up the first of many contrasts; that the two outwardly different characters notice the same details suggests their common humanity with a common response in the presence of war and conflict.
—Ellen Meeropol is the author of House Arrest and Hurricane Island (coming in 2015)