Thursday, 7 September 2017

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
First published in the UK by Bloomsbury Circus on the 15th of August 2017.

My 2010s read for my 2017-18 Decade Challenge, featured in WorldReads: Pakistan and my Book Of The Month for September 2017

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother's death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can't stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London - or their brother, Parvaiz, who's disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

Then Eamonn enters the sisters' lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to - or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz's salvation? Two families' fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles' Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide - confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.

Coincidentally I blogged my WorldReads from Greece a couple of days ago. The five include a Sophocles play, but it is Oedipus not Antigone which I haven't yet read so I can't comment on how closely Home Fire follows the storyline of the original. Home Fire certainly didn't feel like just a retelling of an ancient story because it is very up-to-date in its presentation. Tweets and hashtags cleverly contribute to pace and atmosphere in the later stages. The themes of love, persecution and intolerance are at least as old as human society though so in that respect the narrative is universal and historic.

I liked how Shamsie switches viewpoints between her protagonists and I found myself completely swept into their lives almost from the novel's first page. For a short novel there is a satisfying depth to all the characters. Home Fire is not a particularly comfortable read for a white Brit such as myself. Many instances of my country's casual racism and prejudice against those we perceive as 'other', regardless of their birthplace, are depicted. I was frequently angered and disappointed by hypocritical events and attitudes as well as being made ultra-aware of how language is habitually twisted by politicians and media to inflame emotions and misrepresent people and stories.

I think Home Fire is an important novel of our times so I am delighted to see longlisted for the Booker Prize and hope it also makes the shortlist. Books realistically featuring Muslim characters need to become mainstream in order to help us move away from the aggressive and unhelpful demonisation of so many people.

Etsy Find!
by Mythologicae in
Missouri, USA

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