Home Fire
Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume 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. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

Home Fire Details

TitleHome Fire
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 15th, 2017
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780735217683
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

Home Fire Review

  • Adina
    January 1, 1970
    Just announced as the winner of Women's Prize for Fiction. So happy the novel finally got the recognition it deserves.4.5* rounded up. Home Fire is the candidate I support to win the Booker Prize. Well, I only read 4 nominees until now so it is not a definite opinion. However, it is highly unlikely that I will make too much of an advancement in my reading of the longlist until the shortlist is published so it will probably remain on top for a while. If you read a few reviews you will realize tha Just announced as the winner of Women's Prize for Fiction. So happy the novel finally got the recognition it deserves.4.5* rounded up. Home Fire is the candidate I support to win the Booker Prize. Well, I only read 4 nominees until now so it is not a definite opinion. However, it is highly unlikely that I will make too much of an advancement in my reading of the longlist until the shortlist is published so it will probably remain on top for a while. If you read a few reviews you will realize that the novel is based on Antigone. Unfortunately, I cannot add anything on the subject as I have no knowledge of this classic story and I would feel like a fraud to comment on it after only reading the Wikipedia summary. The novel is divided in 5 sections, each focusing on the experience of one character. At its core, it is the story of a British family of Pakistani origin and their struggle to live in their adoptive country in the shadow of the terrorist threat, especially because of their troubled history. I did not ponder too much how it must be for a normal Muslim family abroad to live with all this suspicion from people and the government. This subject has an important role in the novel and it made understand how difficult it must be to make sure that you do everything right, that you do not provoke violence, always being afraid of being followed. It also discusses the difficulties a family faces when a member of the family proves to be jihadi. It also touches IS recruitment and other sensitive subjects that are very well done. I thought the beginning to be a bit shaky but please persevere. The writing gets much better after 30 pages or so. It becomes a powerful, emotional and important novel for our times. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.****4.5* An excellent book overall although there were some shaky parts. Made me think about a subject I did not pay too much attention: how to live in as a Muslim Citizen of an European country with the potential terrorist stigma. Review to come next week most liekely.
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    Ever since their mother and grandmother died within the period of a year, Isma has cared for her younger twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their well-being has always been her first concern, even if it meant sacrificing her own dreams and ambitions. But now that the twins have turned 18, Isma is finally putting herself first, accepting an invitation from a mentor to travel to America and co-author a paper with her.That doesn't mean Isma won't worry about her siblings—Aneeka, smart, beautiful, a Ever since their mother and grandmother died within the period of a year, Isma has cared for her younger twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their well-being has always been her first concern, even if it meant sacrificing her own dreams and ambitions. But now that the twins have turned 18, Isma is finally putting herself first, accepting an invitation from a mentor to travel to America and co-author a paper with her.That doesn't mean Isma won't worry about her siblings—Aneeka, smart, beautiful, and headstrong, is pursuing studies in law, while Parvaiz has left their London home to try and understand the legacy of their father, who was once a jihadist. Isma does what she believes is right, even as it causes a rift in her family, but she is bound and determined that her brother will not follow in her father's footsteps."For girls, becoming women was inevitability; for boys, becoming men was ambition."When Eamonn, the son of a prominent British politician who has struggled with his own Muslim background in furthering his ambitions, enters the sisters' lives, he, too, causes a rift that he doesn't quite realize at first. Who is he to them? Is he a romantic possibility? A chance to enact revenge? The last hope for a wayward brother? The linchpin of a political crisis? Suddenly many lives hang in the balance, as true intentions are sought to be understood, and emotions are analyzed.What is stronger, blood or love? Can we ever overcome the obligations of family in order to move on with our lives, and if we can, should we? In Home Fire , Kamila Shamsie attempts to answer those questions, as two families deal with the questions of love and loyalty, and how slippery the slope is when we start choosing enemies based on cultural generalizations.This is a powerful, timely book, and Shamsie does a good job navigating difficult political territory. For the most part, these are interesting characters, and I really became immersed in their stories. I felt, however, the book lost its way in telling Parvaiz's story, for while it was important to the plot, it just wasn't as interesting, and a lot was left unsaid. I also felt that Isma, who plays such a key role at the start of the book, is given short shrift, yet she is fascinating, evidenced by an all-too-short encounter with the politician which seemed like it could have developed into more.Shamsie is a talented writer, and this book is definitely a thought-provoking one about the ties of family and the immigrant experience. While it didn't resonate for me as much as, say, Exit West , it's still a powerful read.See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
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  • Hannah Greendale
    January 1, 1970
    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.
  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    Update ... WINNER for the women’s prize of fiction for 2018!!!!!SHORT LISTED FOR THE WOMAN’S PRIZE FOR FICTIONLONG LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZEWOW!!!!!Personal and political life merges together in the most heartbreaking of ways when a man loves a woman whose family is connected to a Muslim terrorist. The author explores justice, love, and passion in ways that can be compared to older classics - think Romeo and Juliet - yet set in modern time. Beautifully written - poetic - great character de Update ... WINNER for the women’s prize of fiction for 2018!!!!!SHORT LISTED FOR THE WOMAN’S PRIZE FOR FICTIONLONG LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZEWOW!!!!!Personal and political life merges together in the most heartbreaking of ways when a man loves a woman whose family is connected to a Muslim terrorist. The author explores justice, love, and passion in ways that can be compared to older classics - think Romeo and Juliet - yet set in modern time. Beautifully written - poetic - great character development.It’s painful to read about two families pitted against each other...but it’s very insightful and informative- especially how the ISIS recruits - influences - and corrupts. Terrific Discussion Book!
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    There are so many timely subjects right now, world concerns and threats, and authors have responded in kind. This novel features two Muslim families in Britain, two families that have very different opinions on family and how to show or display their Muslim beliefs. It moves the themes in Sophocles, Antigone to present times. I remember very little about Antigone, refreshed my memory on Wiki, but I cannot really knowledgeably comment on the adequecy of the comparison.The novel starts out slowly There are so many timely subjects right now, world concerns and threats, and authors have responded in kind. This novel features two Muslim families in Britain, two families that have very different opinions on family and how to show or display their Muslim beliefs. It moves the themes in Sophocles, Antigone to present times. I remember very little about Antigone, refreshed my memory on Wiki, but I cannot really knowledgeably comment on the adequecy of the comparison.The novel starts out slowly paced, rather inoculously, as a young Muslim women, who has spent many years raising her two twin siblings. Now that they are old enough, Isma decides it is time to complete her interrupted education. The family!y of three has long been under the surveillance of the British Security service as their father was a known jihadist, who died on the way to Guantanamo.We learn about the methods used to recruit young people, usually 18 or 19, to the Islamic terrorist cause. The novel is narrated in alternating chapters by the five main characters. Each succeeding chapter is more intense, and by the time we hear from Aneeka, this story had radically changed, become super charged, very intense. The novel displays a confidence not only in prose but in how the story is related, which I found extremely effective.Complex issues. Love of family, youthful mistakes, how much can be forgiven. Government stances versus family, fear versus love, and the difficulties of Muslims, how they must act to fit in with society. Long listed for the Booker, I find tis a very worthy addition. Unforgettable, some of the visuals displaying a sister's love I don't think I will forget.ARC from edelweiss.
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  • Maxwell
    January 1, 1970
    I don't give 1-star reviews very often because I feel like I don't read a lot of books I would label as 'bad.' And this book, even, isn't 'bad' in my eyes. But when I think about things I enjoyed regarding this novel, there's pretty much nothing redeemable for me. The characters were flat, the plot was paper thin (even though I know it's a modern retelling of Antigone, I don't feel like that knowledge did anything to elevate the story), and the writing was nothing special and verged on poor at t I don't give 1-star reviews very often because I feel like I don't read a lot of books I would label as 'bad.' And this book, even, isn't 'bad' in my eyes. But when I think about things I enjoyed regarding this novel, there's pretty much nothing redeemable for me. The characters were flat, the plot was paper thin (even though I know it's a modern retelling of Antigone, I don't feel like that knowledge did anything to elevate the story), and the writing was nothing special and verged on poor at times. I know others who loved this book but, boy, I did not. In fact for the first time in a long time I couldn't wait to finish it. And that never really is a fun reading experience. If it had been any longer I would've DNF'd it. But I was more determined to push through since I am attempting to read all of this year's Man Booker longlist. Wouldn't necessarily recommend this but read some other reviews and see what people had to say that liked it, because it might be just the right book for you. It wasn't for me.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    I went looking for a review copy of this when it was included on the Man Booker Prize Long list, and was approved for one by the publisher through Edelweiss.This is a book that kept morphing as I read it and discussed it, and it ended up in a place far removed from my expectations at the beginning. Nowhere in the publisher summary or promotional material does it mention that the author is also basing this novel on the myth of Antigone, but she has, and that proves important in understanding some I went looking for a review copy of this when it was included on the Man Booker Prize Long list, and was approved for one by the publisher through Edelweiss.This is a book that kept morphing as I read it and discussed it, and it ended up in a place far removed from my expectations at the beginning. Nowhere in the publisher summary or promotional material does it mention that the author is also basing this novel on the myth of Antigone, but she has, and that proves important in understanding some of her choices.The author is from Pakistan, and the characters have some loose ties to Pakistan and end up there during some of the events, but it is more important inside the novel that the three central characters (siblings) are all children of a jihadi who was killed during or because of his military action. The characters themselves aren't certain, just know that he's gone, so I won't give that detail away. It's important to also understand that as a jihadi, he is working toward the magical homeland idea, and to that end has voluntarily fought in Afghanistan, Syria, Chechnya, and beyond. And the people he was involved with have done the same. Between that fact and the fact that the siblings are split between the USA and the UK, and the placeness of the novel feels very unstable. More instability in the novel comes from the shifting viewpoints and genres. The novel starts with Isma, the oldest sister as she moves to Amherst for school, including a long drawn out inquisition at the airport that makes her miss her flight. She meets Eamonn, son of a powerful politician in the UK, but his family is also close to her family in country and religion of origin, even if they don't seem to claim it anymore. At this point the novel feels like it is headed one specific direction, but there is a major shift to a romance novel for a while, and then it turns into a jihadist recruitment novel, and then a story about the placelessness of people labeled terrorists. Too much time, perhaps, is spent on what to do with a dead body without a country (this is a place where the author is trying to hard, in my opinion, to shoehorn the novel into the myth, when it is not needed, she has enough of a story without that.)As you can tell from my attempt to summarize, there is a lot going on in this novel. But I also found myself thinking far more deeply about the context. How far reaching are the wounds of Partition, which is where this family first lost their footing? How has that impacted the longterm inclination towards jihad? How do the way their family is treated in the USA and the UK effect how one member can only find home and family with a group of soldiers who knew his father? And outside this story, how is our current political situation worsening these kinds of narratives, pushing people into outsider status and otherness, without home, without firm footing? I think that's the thread that is between the lines, and to me, the most powerful part. I was waffling between three and four stars but I think my own thinking as a result of the novel pushes it to four.I do think there are misses here, though. The mythological connection weakens the story, especially the ending. Without saying what the ending is, I think it's a cop out to have a single climactic moment rather than following characters as they deal with the real-world, complex complications of the decisions that people have made. That's a movie move, not a novel move. There are missed opportunities between characters, conversations and interactions I expected them to have but are instead skipped, glossed over, or deemed not important. Isma and Aneeka should have had a huge fight about one plot element, and I felt like the connection between Isma and Eamonn's father had a lot of potential and it just dissipates. I would like to read more by this author, although I personally don't feel this is strong enough to make the Booker shortlist. Too many dropped plot points, a lack of realism at crucial moments, and the unevenness in genre and story arcs. I did appreciate the deep thinking it inspired, and it ended up having enough in it to count as one of the reads for my Borders 2017 challenge.
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  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    When the Booker longlist was announced, this was one of the books that most interested me, because I really enjoyed Shamsie's previous two novels (A God in Every Stone and Burnt Shadows). I was a little nervous when I read that this is a modern retelling of Antigone, because my knowledge of the classics is very limited, but it is a fine book and another one which would make a worthy winner.The book is in five sections each of which focuses on a different character. I found the first slow going - When the Booker longlist was announced, this was one of the books that most interested me, because I really enjoyed Shamsie's previous two novels (A God in Every Stone and Burnt Shadows). I was a little nervous when I read that this is a modern retelling of Antigone, because my knowledge of the classics is very limited, but it is a fine book and another one which would make a worthy winner.The book is in five sections each of which focuses on a different character. I found the first slow going - we are introduced to Isma as she travels from Britain to Massachusetts to pursue her academic career. Isma is an orphan who has been looking after her younger twin siblings (Aneeka and Parvaiz), and her father was a jihadi fighter in Chechnya and Afghanistan who only returned occasionally. She meets another Briton from a Pakistani family, Eamonn, who is the son of the home secretary (Karamat) and is in America on holiday. This section is primarily a scene setter - the real action starts when Eamonn returns to London and meets Aneeka. They embark on a clandestine affair. In the third part we learn more about Parvaiz. He is a drifter more interested in sound recording than working who is left at a loose end when Isma leaves for America and Aneeka starts a law degree. He gets entangled with, and radicalised by Farooq, who turns out to be a recruiter for IS and who persuades him to head for Syria, with the promises that he will find out more about his father and his death while being transported to Guantanamo, and that he will lead a privileged life in the media arm of the organisation. Things heat up when Parvaiz decides he wants to return to Britain, and the remainder of the book plays out the tragedy that ensues. (view spoiler)[It transpires that Aneeka's interest in Eamonn was initially motivated by the idea that he could help her twin brother. When Parvaiz is killed in Istanbul, it is decreed that his body cannot be returned to Britain and instead it is sent to Pakistan. Aneeka goes to Pakistan to fight to have the body returned, and this mirrors the original Greek tragedy. (hide spoiler)]I won't comment in detail about how this relates to the Sophocles play or the Anouilh version of the story - I will leave that to more expert critics. What I will say is that as a modern parable it works surprisingly well and becomes a very compulsive story. The Prime Minister and Chancellor are obviously modelled on Cameron and Osborne, so it is clear that Shamsie did not foresee the upheavals of the Brexit vote, but all of the other political content is chillingly plausible, and Shamsie paints a very nuanced picture of the difficulties faced by the Muslim community in dealing with their own extremists on one side and intolerance and misunderstanding on the other.Perhaps slightly flawed in places, but the best parts are very good indeed.
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  • Dianne
    January 1, 1970
    This is a powerful and gut-wrenching book loosely based on Greek mythology's story of Antigone, a woman defying a king to secure her brother an honorable burial. I knew this going in, so I did some research on Antigone so I could appreciate the parallels as they unfolded."Home Fire" is told through 5 viewpoints: sisters Isma and Aneeka, their brother Parvaiz (Aneeka's twin), British Home Secretary Karamat Lone and his son Eamonn. Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz are Muslims living in London and Amherst, This is a powerful and gut-wrenching book loosely based on Greek mythology's story of Antigone, a woman defying a king to secure her brother an honorable burial. I knew this going in, so I did some research on Antigone so I could appreciate the parallels as they unfolded."Home Fire" is told through 5 viewpoints: sisters Isma and Aneeka, their brother Parvaiz (Aneeka's twin), British Home Secretary Karamat Lone and his son Eamonn. Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz are Muslims living in London and Amherst, the children of Adil Pasha. Adil abandoned his family to join the "fight against oppression" as a terrorist, and after imprisonment in Bagram, died on a plane for transport to Guantanamo. Being the children of a known terrorist creates difficulties for Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz that play out in various ways throughout the narratives.This is a classic Greek tragedy in a modern "of the moment" setting, both heartbreaking and eye-opening. I deeply appreciate Shamsie's ability to create empathy for each character and their situations. This was long-listed for the Man Booker in 2017 and was the favorite of many of my Goodreads friends, and for good reason. I highly recommend this gem. Also, here's a shameless plug for another Antigone-based book that I loved, "The Watch" by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya. Not as masterful perhaps as Shamsie's, but one that deeply affected me and I still think about often.
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  • Dem
    January 1, 1970
    A remarkably short Novel that delivers on an epic scale. A story of family ties, loyalty and a story of prejudice in the modern world. A thought provoking and intelligent novel that left me wanting to read more of Kamila Shamsie's workThis is another one of those books upon finishing I cant help regretting I hadn't read this as part of a group read just for the discussion factor as there is so much to discuss.The Novel has a very powerful opening wih Isma a Muslin woman struggling to be admitte A remarkably short Novel that delivers on an epic scale. A story of family ties, loyalty and a story of prejudice in the modern world. A thought provoking and intelligent novel that left me wanting to read more of Kamila Shamsie's workThis is another one of those books upon finishing I cant help regretting I hadn't read this as part of a group read just for the discussion factor as there is so much to discuss.The Novel has a very powerful opening wih Isma a Muslin woman struggling to be admitted to the US on a student visa and her long delay in the interrogation room results in her missing her flight. Isma, Aneeka and Pavaiz have had nothing but each other for a long time, Their father's past rears it's ugly head and Parvaiz gets drawn into a world that nightmares are made of.I loved the structure of this novel as it tells each character's story from his or her point of view in separate chapters. This is a brave novel and certainly makes you think, its well written and the characters are believable and interesting. This is the sort of book that can be read in a couple of sittings and I think would work well for bookclubs.I look forward to checking out more books by this author.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    Delighted that this has now been recognised as the magnificent book it is: well done Women's Prize panel!Inspired by Sophocles' Antigone, this has a slightly shaky start but then soars into an outstanding tragedy of love, politics, justice and humanity. By drawing on Athenian tragedy, Shamsie makes the point that clashes of civic law vs a deeper, more humane sense of what is right have always been contested, and the tension between family and state always problematic. What she does so brilliant Delighted that this has now been recognised as the magnificent book it is: well done Women's Prize panel!Inspired by Sophocles' Antigone, this has a slightly shaky start but then soars into an outstanding tragedy of love, politics, justice and humanity. By drawing on Athenian tragedy, Shamsie makes the point that clashes of civic law vs a deeper, more humane sense of what is right have always been contested, and the tension between family and state always problematic. What she does so brilliantly in this book is to take these questions and give them an acutely charged contemporary relevance that leaves the reader shaken.I have been lucky enough to read an ARC (thanks Bloomsbury and NetGalley!) so can't say too much so far in advance of publication, but this is a book which takes complicated public issues and makes them intimate and personal. Refusing to simplify or neaten, Shamsie has produced a book which treats matters both horrific and beautiful with clear-sightedness, intellectual grace and compassion. A searing, towering, magnificent piece of storytelling which deserves to win prizes and be read by everyone - brava, Ms Shamsie!
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    Deservedly the winner of the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction: ‘What do you say to your father when he makes a speech like that? Do you say, Dad, you’re making it OK to stigmatise people for the way they dress? Do you say, what kind of idiot stands in front of a group of teenagers and tells them to conform? Do you say, why didn’t you mention that among the things this country will let you achieve if you’re Muslim is torture, rendition, detention without trial, airport interrogations, spies in your Deservedly the winner of the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction: ‘What do you say to your father when he makes a speech like that? Do you say, Dad, you’re making it OK to stigmatise people for the way they dress? Do you say, what kind of idiot stands in front of a group of teenagers and tells them to conform? Do you say, why didn’t you mention that among the things this country will let you achieve if you’re Muslim is torture, rendition, detention without trial, airport interrogations, spies in your mosques, teachers reporting your children to the authorities for wanting a world without British injustice?’[...]‘If you’re nineteen and female you’ll get some version of a hard time for whatever you wear. Mostly it’s the kind of thing that’s easy to shrug off. Sometimes things happen that make people more hostile. Terrorist attacks involving European victims. Home Secretaries talking about people setting themselves apart in the way they dress. That kind of thing.’ Aneeka (Antigone) to Eamonn (Haemon)‘We’re in no position to let the state question our loyalties. Don’t you understand that? Isma (Ismene) to Aneeka (Antigone) Khamila Shamsie’s Home Fire is a 21st Century rewrite of Sophocles’s Antigone. It perhaps wasn’t the best book on the 2017 Man Booker longlist, if measured by pure literary merit, it was the most important and thought provoking.Studying Antigone in preparation for Home Fire I was struck, as I imagine Shamsie was, by the contemporary relevance of three key Greek concepts, left untranslated in the version I read.1) the ambiguous use of the word nomos - which to Antigone denotes customs and values, but to King Creon the laws of the land (https://www.britannica.com/topic/nomo...)2) Antigone's prioritisation of philia (obligations to friends, family: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philia) over obligations to the state, and Creon's explicit rejection of that stance, (Whoever deems a philos more important than a fatherland, this man I say is nowhere.) or, as in Seamus Heaney's rewrite of the play, which forms the epigraph for Home Fire: The ones we love . . . are enemies of the state.3) and most strikingly in a 2016-7 context Antigone's lament that she is a "metic, not among the living nor among the dead" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metic). In modern day parlance, she is essentially proclaiming herself a citizen of nowhere, to use the accusatory phrase used in 2016 by the newly appointed British Prime Minister towards those who would calls themselves citizens of the world.Shamsie relocates Antigone to Britain in the 2nd half of the 2010s, and her conflict is not just between family and state, but between one’s religious and cultural beliefs, particularly for British Muslims, and both family and state. And she also addresses the troubling question of why young people are, despite the well documented excesses of the regime, attracted to leave their country of residence and their families and journey to Islamic State, In her retelling Creon becomes Karamat Lone, newly appointed British Home Secretary (one of the four great offices of state) and with his sights on even higher office:The accompanying article described the newly elevated minister as a man ‘from a Muslim background’, which is what they always said about him, as though Muslimness was something he had boldly stridden away from. Inevitably, the sentence went on to use the phrase ‘strong on security’. In the real world. 2017 Britain is a country where, on the one hand, London has (since the first draft of Home Fire was written) elected an openly Muslim mayor despite a ‘dog whistle’ campaign by his opponent to try to link him to Islam extremism, but on the other hand, where someone running to be a new Member of Parliament in 2010 – and now a senior Cabinet minister - felt obliged to announce at the hustings: My own family’s heritage is Muslim. Myself and my four brothers were brought up to believe in God, but I do not practise any religion. My wife is a practising Christian and the only religion practised in my house is Christianity. I think we should recognise that Christianity is the religion of our country.And also where, in 2014, the then Home Secretary – now in 2017 the Prime Minister of the ‘Citizens of Nowhere’ speech – introduced powers to strip dual citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism of their British nationality. In the novel, Kamarat Lone, goes further: The day I assumed office I revoked the citizenship of all dual nationals who have left Britain to join our enemies. My predecessor only used these powers selectively which, as I have said repeatedly, was a mistake. Home Fire - as with Preti Taneja's recent wonderful retelling of King Lear, We That Are Young - is told in five sections, in the third person from the perspectives of the key characters:- Isma (Ismene), a young woman and LSE trained sociologist- Eamonn (Haemon), son of the Home Secretary- Parvaiz (Polyneices), Isma's 19 year-old younger brother- Aneeka (Antigone), Parvaiz's twin sister, studying law at LSE, and- Karamat (Creon), whose Irish wife Terri fills the role of the prophet TeiresiasThe novel opens with Isma at Heathrow undergoing an interview from British immigration authorities, although she is actually leaving the country to start a PhD in America. In the 21st Century security state any Muslim leaving the country, particularly with Isma's family background (see below) is potentially open to suspicion as to whether their ultimate route might be Islamic State: indeed, unknown to anyone but his very close family, Isma’s brother, Parvaiz, has done precisely that.’Do you consider yourself British?’ the man said.‘I am British.’‘But do you consider yourself British?’‘I’ve lived here all my life.’ She meant that there was no other country of which she could feel herself a part, but the words came out sounding evasive.The interrogation continued for nearly two hours. He wanted to know her thoughts on Shias, homosexuals, the Queen, democracy, The Great British Bake Off, the invasion of Iraq, Israel, suicide bombers, dating websites. After that early slip regarding her Britishness, she settled into the manner that she’d practiced with Aneeka playing the role of the interrogating officer, Isma responding to her sister as though she were a customer of dubious political opinions whose business Isma didn’t want to lose by voicing strenuously opposing views, but to whom she didn’t see the need to lie either. (“When people talk about the enmity between Shias and Sunni, it usually centers around some political imbalance of power, such as in Iraq or Syria—as a Brit, I don’t distinguish between one Muslim and another.” “Occupying other people’s territory generally causes more problems than it solves”—this served for both Iraq and Israel. “Killing civilians is sinful—¬that’s equally true if the manner of killing is a suicide bombing or aerial bombardments or drone strikes.”) There were long intervals of silence between each answer and the next question as the man clicked keys on her laptop, examining her browser history. He knew that she was interested in the marital status of an actor from a popular TV series; that wearing a hijab didn’t stop her from buying expensive products to tame her frizzy hair; that she had searched for “how to make small talk with Americans. The dangers of ‘Googling while Muslim’ feature frequently in the novel, fears which Shamsie admits dogged her when researching the novel.I was very aware of Googling while Muslim while writing this book. When I started to research, I would do stupid things, like look at three relevant websites, then go look at some really trashy celebrity stuff for a while. There was a part of my brain that was saying, what will I say if intelligence agencies come to my door and want to know why I’m looking up this stuff?Most strikingly, from the same interview:Q: Would you have published Home Fire before you had the security of knowing you were a British citizen?A: No, absolutely not.http://www.vogue.com/article/kamila-s...In America, Isma suddenly encounters a handsome youth, in a rather Mills and Boonesque moment. By mid-afternoon the temperature had passed the 50° F mark, which sounded, and felt, far warmer than 11° C, and a bout of spring madness had largely emptied out the café basement. Isma tilted her post-lunch mug of coffee towards herself, touched the tip of her finger to the liquid, considered how much of a faux pas it might be to ask to have it microwaved. She had just decided she would risk the opprobrium when the door opened and the scent of cigarettes curled in from the smoking area outside, followed by a young man of startling looks.She soon recognises him as Karamat Lone's son:Eamonn, that was his name. How they’d laughed in Wembley when the newspaper article accompanying the family picture revealed this detail, an Irish spelling to disguise a Muslim name – Ayman became Eamonn so that people would know the father had integrated. (His Irish–American wife was seen as another indicator of this integrationist posing rather than an explanation for the son’s name.) There is history between the two families. Isme, Aneeka and Parvaiz's father Adil Pasha had been a jihadi himself: their last contact with him a phone call from Afghanistan in late 2001. In 2004 they found out, from a fellow prisoner, now released that their father had been captured in early 2002, imprisoned and tortured in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility and then died on route to Guantanamo. A friend of the family contacted a cousin, now the local MP - one Karamat Lone, then at the start of his political career - for help in finding where his body might be, but he refusedThey're better off without himOne issue Shamsie faced in re-writing Antigone was how to incorporate the incest/father murder of Oedipus, Polyneices and his sister's father: changing this so that father and son are both jihadis, was a very neat solution, and does away with the fourth sibling Eteocles (killed by Polyneices in the play) as Parvaiz's unpardonable sin, rendering him a non-person in Karamat's eyes, is joining Islamic State. The destiny of sons's to follow their father is a key theme of the novel, albeit one that I struggleda little with as so manifest in a 21st Century context. As Eamonn tries to explain to one of the sisters:For girls, becoming women was inevitability; for boys, becoming men was ambition. He must have seen her look of incomprehension because he tried again. ‘We want to be like them; we want to be better than them. We want to be the only people in the world who are allowed to be better than them.’ And incomprehension cuts both ways: Eamonn tries, and fails, to understand how it might feel to be Parvaiz or his sisters:He tried to imagine growing up knowing your father to be a fanatic, his death a mystery open to terrible speculation, but the attempt was defeated by his simple inability to know how such a man as Adil Pasha could have existed in Britain to begin with. I won't spoil what happens in the rest of the novel. Shamsie is to be credited for managing to:- adhere faithfully to the original - even incorporating nods to signature elements such as the dust storm that appears at one crucial moment, yet - maintain narrative tension - it is typically only afterwards that one recognises how the action follows the play, and- update the play's themes for a 21st Century setting - for example the role of Coryphaeus and the chorus is taken by the press - and highly topical issues.The novel has some powerful things to say about dual nationality and identity - and the approach of allowing each character their perspective provides a relatively balanced view, albeit it is clear that Shamsie's sympathy's are not with Karamat Lone's approach to stripping those joining Islamic State of their citizenship and their right to return, even for burial when dead, to the UK.She also, through Parvaiz, provides insight into what draws young people to Islamic State, drawing on the interviews in Gillian Slovo's verbatim play Another World: Losing our Children to Islamic State. She describes a recruitment video for Islamic State - note the dissonant images of violence interspersed with the idyllic scenes: Men fishing together against the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise; children on swings in a playground; a man riding through a city on the back of a beautiful stallion, carts of fresh vegetables lining the street; an elderly but powerful-looking man beneath a canopy of green grapes, reaching up to pluck a bunch; young men of different ethnicities sitting together on a carpet laid out in a field; standing men pointing their guns at the heads of kneeling men; an aerial night-time view of a street thrumming with life, car headlights and electric lights blazing; men and boys in a large swimming pool; boys and girls queuing up outside a bouncy castle at an amusement park; a blood donation clinic; smiling men sweeping an already clean street; a bird sanctuary; the bloodied corpse of a child. or as Parvaiz puts it rather more simply when he arrives in Raqqa:Despite his disquiet at the spiked heads and veiled women, the blue skies and the camaraderie of the men slumped in beanbags promised the better world he’d come in search of. And the book also doesn't spare those who make life more difficult for their fellows by their own actions. As a Pakistani relative of Aneeka tells her when she arrives in the country as the novel reaches its dramatic climax:Did you or your bhenchod brother stop to think about those of us with passports that look like toilet paper to the rest of the world, who spend our whole lives being so careful we don’t give anyone a reason to reject our visa applications. Don’t stand next to this guy, don’t follow that guy on Twitter, don’t download that Noam Chomsky book. And then first your brother uses us as a cover to join some psycho killers, and then your government thinks this country can be a dumping ground for its unwanted corpses and your family just expects us to jump up and organise a funeral for this week’s face of terrorism. And now you’ve come along, Miss Hojabi Knickers, and I have to pull strings I don’t want to pull to get you out of the airport without the whole world’s press seeing you, and it turns out you’re here to try some stunt, I don’t even know what, but my family will have nothing to do with it, nothing to do with you.’ I said at the review's start that this wasn't perhaps the best book on the Booker shortlist measured by literary merit alone. As per the example quote above, the Isme section has tinges of a Mills and Boon romance and that focusing on Parvaiz elements of a cheap Clive Cussler thriller (per Gumble’s Yard's excellent review https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).However the writing becomes more powerful in the latter two sections, as it move on to both the highly personal and yet public anguish of Aneeka, interspersed with excerpts from tabloid newspapers (who rename Aneeka 'Knickers' and Parvaiz 'Pervy' as they seize with glee on the sex scandals in the story) and then the political machinations of the Home Secretary. And it struck me that the style choices in the first sections may have been that: choices, with Shamsie using the character's own worldviews to colour her third-person narration.Overall - a novel I would be happy to see win the Booker, albeit there are many other strong books on the exceptional 2017 list: Autumn, Reservoir 13 (my personal favourite), Solar Bones, Exit West and Lincoln in the Bardo would form the rest of my personal shortlist.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    Congratulations to Home Fire for winning the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction! I don't know why I'd been under the impression that Home Fire was going to be a kind of loose, 'blink and you miss it' retelling of Antigone, but I'm almost glad that that had been my expectation, because the reality of this book completely caught me off guard. And I loved it. In this novel Kamila Shamsie gives us a fearless adaptation set in present-day London, following two Muslim families both grappling with family Congratulations to Home Fire for winning the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction! I don't know why I'd been under the impression that Home Fire was going to be a kind of loose, 'blink and you miss it' retelling of Antigone, but I'm almost glad that that had been my expectation, because the reality of this book completely caught me off guard. And I loved it. In this novel Kamila Shamsie gives us a fearless adaptation set in present-day London, following two Muslim families both grappling with family legacy and national identity.I hesitate to say that you won't get anything out of this book if you aren't familiar with Antigone, but just in terms of my own experience, my reading of it was almost entirely informed by the parallels. Just consider that this reads more like a Greek tragedy than it does a contemporary novel - not in terms of prose quality, certainly, but in terms of themes and narrative structure.There is nothing subtle about the way in which Shamsie riffs off Sophocles, but the hidden depths in Home Fire makes it a rewarding and necessary retelling, as does Shamsie's choice to reframe the story around an all-Muslim host of characters. The main theme at the heart of Antigone- measuring the power of the individual against the power of a corrupt state - is also the main theme of Home Fire. But it's complicated here by the fact that the protagonists and antagonists alike are all a part of the same minority group; all striving to live as best they can in a society which continues to alienate and dehumanize them.The main criticism which I've seen leveled against this book - that its characters are flat - is valid, and I agree to an extent, but I also find myself forgiving this more here than I might in another novel. The characters are 'flat' as such because they're deliberately constructed archetypes, and this is where I'm wondering if this would be a less rewarding reading experience for those not already familiar with the original story and characters. The Creon figure here I thought was particularly fascinating for the way Shamsie subverted certain elements of his narrative.Anyway, I thought this novel was stimulating; the way in which Shamsie uses a classical narrative to give voice to a minority group is one of the best reasons I can think of to adapt a story that's already been told to death. Home Fire is topical and classical all at once, and an engaging, dramatic tragedy from start to finish.
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    Shamsie’s novel was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for 2017. It is topical: two British families with Muslim religious roots and Pakistani backgrounds cone together in a doomed pas de deux . The author Shamsie, according to cover copy, grew up in Karachi, and yet in her picture she has the round eyes of a Westerner. The cultural difficulties she writes of may not be too difficult for her to imagine, I’m guessing.I read this novel very fast—it has a strange, porous density to it. The meanin Shamsie’s novel was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for 2017. It is topical: two British families with Muslim religious roots and Pakistani backgrounds cone together in a doomed pas de deux . The author Shamsie, according to cover copy, grew up in Karachi, and yet in her picture she has the round eyes of a Westerner. The cultural difficulties she writes of may not be too difficult for her to imagine, I’m guessing.I read this novel very fast—it has a strange, porous density to it. The meaning of sentences are all on the surface. The detail in the opening chapter is a blind, leading nowhere except providing an excuse for a meeting of the two families. The girl's family is orphaned. The boy’s family needs no introduction, being daily in the news for British political leadership and therefore on display. The disconnect between the two is wide, and should be difficult to overcome. We are not entirely convinced at any time.Love—what is it after all—and who can lay claim to it? The just-past teenage son of a British minister? Not so fast. The beauty of the girl--is it enough when one is feted by the most desirable creatures in one’s class? Not so fast. And jihad—it is brought in clumsily, inauthentically, casually. It may be just like those things, but I doubt it.In the end this struck me as an early attempt by a sort-of-promising author except that there was no weight to any of it. I felt no responsibility for what the characters learned or hadn’t learned, and the young people’s insistence upon their own desires was disturbing to me and unlike everything I have known of Southeastern Asian society. I got no sense of the enormously consequential decision in Sophocles' Antigone , despite the epigraph quoting Seamus Heaney's translation of the play. Instead, the book could more easily be read as a reworking of Romeo & Juliet. I felt no grandeur in this novel, however. Alas.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Winner of the 2018 Women's Prize. And a book which seems uncanningly prescient given the recent change in Home Secretary.A book I originally read due to its longlisting for the 2017 Booker prize and by an author whose previous works I have not read. In the stories of wicked tyrants men and women are punished with exile, bodies are kept from their families –their heads impaled on spikes, their corpses thrown into unmarked graves. All these things happen according to the law, but not according to Winner of the 2018 Women's Prize. And a book which seems uncanningly prescient given the recent change in Home Secretary.A book I originally read due to its longlisting for the 2017 Booker prize and by an author whose previous works I have not read. In the stories of wicked tyrants men and women are punished with exile, bodies are kept from their families –their heads impaled on spikes, their corpses thrown into unmarked graves. All these things happen according to the law, but not according to justice. I am here to ask for justice The book is a retelling of Antigone – a classical play with which I was unfamiliar, but which I read in preparation for reading this novel.The main characters of Home Fire and their Antigone equivalents are in two main families: Three siblings from an Anglo-Pakistani family – the studious and serious Isma (Isemene), her beautiful and more impetuous and younger-by-9-years sister Aneeka (Antigone), and Aneeka’s impressionable twin brother Parvaiz (Polyneices); A high profile Conservative politician Karamat Lone “Wolf” (Creon), his son Eamonn (Haimon) and his rich Irish interior designer wife Terri (effectively the prophet Tiresias).The book is told in 5 third party point of view sections told in turn from the viewpoint of Isma. Eamonn, Parvaiz, Aneeka and Karamat – four of these proceed in turn in chronological order but Parvaiz’s section jumps around in time including sections which predate all the other sections.The three siblings father was largely absent from their lives, instead fighting across the world as an Islamic freedom fighter in areas like Bosnia, then relabelled as an Islamic terrorist after 9-11 and his family eventually find out dying on his way to Guantánamo. When their mother died also, Isma at 21 has to give up her successful sociological studies to act as a full time carer for the twins. The siblings family hold a long term grudge against Karamat- as, when a young MP, he refused to help them find out about their father and retrieve his body. Over time Karamat has moved away from his Muslim background, after a scandal when he was seen entering a mosque believed to be terrorist-sponsoring, and now stands as a fully British anti-terrorist hardliner.The book is set when the twins are 19, Aneeka studying law. Isma now free from her responsibilities taking a research place in America with her previous academic supervisor and Parvaiz (radicalised by some family friends and IS recruiters who play on the tortures inflicted on the father he never knew) using the cover of a family trip to Pakistan to join the Caliphate in Raqqa where he becomes a member of the IS media unit. In America Isma meets Eamonn and despite recognising him strikes up a friendship with him, when Karamat is made Home Secretary they admit to each other about their fathers. On his return to the UK, Eamonn takes a package from Isma to her house and is immediately smitten with Aneeka – her initial reaction is hostile, but immediately after she pursues him and the two have an affair.I recently read the brilliant and Republic of Consciousness shortlisted We That Are Young - a modern day King Lear and a book disappointingly overlooked for the Women's Prize where it would have made a fascinating comparison to this book. Preti Taneja's approach to dealing with the "source text" was to follow not just the main plot, but often the dialogue of King Lear, and more specifically to choose to convey some of the more dramatic/odd parts of the original plot literally rather than in a figurative sense. That choice was fundamental to her very conception of that novel: her realisation that concepts and events which render King Lear strange to a modern Western reader can be understood in a modern context when transplanted across the world.Shamsie's approach has been a little more figurative - she has used much of the basic set up of Antigone (someone fighting against the state who is denied burial rights and effectively rendered stateless after their death) while not feeling the need to follow every last aspect of the original. She has brilliantly drawn out how the clear themes of Antigone (split loyalties to state/family, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, the meaning of justice and the difference between state law and natural justice, female roles) are so relevant today. However there are clearly quite areas where the initial set up is different to Antigone. For example: no Eteocles; Aneeka/Isme's father's back story having limited parallel with Oedipus; Eamonn's initial relationship with Isma and Isma being the older sister (which both come from Jean Anouilh's version I think); Aneeka being the more beautiful daughter (Anouilh and the original have Isemene as more beautiful).I felt though that there were more direct links in the last section, but that these were subtle, for example: - Eamon's call with his father warning him "stopping a family from burying its own - that never looks good. That's what people are beginning to say around me. if your advisers won't tell you this, your son will" echoing Hameon telling Creon "under cover of darkness the city mourns for the girl"- Terri's warning to Karamat "And you've lost your son" echoing Tiresias prophecy that Creon's actions mean he will lose "a son of [his] own loins".- A blinding dust storm late in the book, which gives an echo of "the violent eddy lifted from the ground ... the vast atmosphere thickened to meet it" just before Antigone covers Polynices body for the second timeI also loved the ending - and how the joint suicide of the classic version is played out instead.I did have some reservations about the writing. Like many others, I found the opening section very clunky and clichéd (for example a comment Isma makes about seeing her supervisor's hand being waved in welcome being like the outstretched arm of the Statue of Liberty). Had I have picked this book and browsed through it, without it being Booker longlisted, I may well have put it straight back down. Although the writing improves as the book progresses it remains uneven, a meditation on grief could have been written by Ali Smith, the section below (for which there simply is no excuse in a literary novel) from the pen of Clive Cussler. “His companion leant against the counter behind which the shopkeeper was standing, and flipped his phone from hand to hand while looking at the other customers. They filed out quickly in response, leaving the two men and the shopkeeper alone in the cavernous store. ‘Look at all this!’ the younger one said. ‘The Røde SVMX. The Sennheiser MKH8040. The Neumann U 87.’ ‘Uh huh. Just get what Abu Raees asked for, and let’s go. I’m starving.’ The shopkeeper reached beneath the counter and pulled out a box. ‘The Sound Devices 788T. Didn’t Abu Raees receive my message? I’ve had it for over two weeks.” One possible reason for this is that Shamsie is deliberately trying to write each section in the character of the point of view narrator.Overall I really liked this book – and was very disappointed to see it not making the Booker shortlist, so was delighted that the Women's Prize has given it the recognition it deserves.
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  • Vanessa
    January 1, 1970
    A timely examination of what it means to be a Muslim in a hostile Western modern society where pre conceived notions are at odds with some horrifying realities. It took me awhile to fully invest in this book and about mid way I was deeply absorbed and felt the immense force and power of this book. I felt a deep connection with the plight of the characters and how parts of their personal story unravel to really make you understand the complexities of the issues surrounding them. The author reveal A timely examination of what it means to be a Muslim in a hostile Western modern society where pre conceived notions are at odds with some horrifying realities. It took me awhile to fully invest in this book and about mid way I was deeply absorbed and felt the immense force and power of this book. I felt a deep connection with the plight of the characters and how parts of their personal story unravel to really make you understand the complexities of the issues surrounding them. The author reveals the background of the characters in a way that make you truly understand some of the reasoning behind their behaviours, she was able to draw me in and blow me away at her intricate writing skills. This is outstanding work and will be placed in my favourites list. I applaud the author for what I consider an important piece of writing and so very fitting for our current political climate. 10/5 stars...it was that good.
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  • Bookworm
    January 1, 1970
    Oh wow! What a thought-provoking and emotional read! I was not expecting such a powerful and cleverly written work of fiction. Home Fire tackles a difficult yet important subject matter - the humanistic impact of modern day terrorism. The reader is brought into an all-too-familiar scenario in which people of Muslim faith are automatically branded as Jihadists and suspected of sympathizing with terrorist activities. The prejudices and "extra security measures" these folks are subjected to is expl Oh wow! What a thought-provoking and emotional read! I was not expecting such a powerful and cleverly written work of fiction. Home Fire tackles a difficult yet important subject matter - the humanistic impact of modern day terrorism. The reader is brought into an all-too-familiar scenario in which people of Muslim faith are automatically branded as Jihadists and suspected of sympathizing with terrorist activities. The prejudices and "extra security measures" these folks are subjected to is explored through the eyes of the Pasha family. The opening chapter begins with Isma Pasha, the eldest sibling, being interrogated at the airport for several hours to ensure she is not a terrorist and missing her flight from London to the USA. As the story progresses, we learn more about the plight of the Pasha family, whose father was hailed as a hero by jihadi groups and died en route to Guantanamo bay. The story is told from several different POV's, which keeps the perspective fresh and provides a more dynamic plot development. We get to know each character and their "truth" which allows the reader to engage and form their own opinions and feelings towards each. The only downside was that each character's perspective was highlighted only once throughout the story, so as the plot progressed, I would have liked to have returned to a former character's POV to hear what they were experiencing further along. Home Fire also includes a political component that focuses on "homeland security," and as a nation trying to protect itself from the horrendous acts of terrorism, how far do we go? Mixed within the prose between politics and terrorism are two families intertwined at the heart of it all. I loved this story because it made me think. It made me cry. It made me hate. It made me question my own beliefs. When a book can produce such reactions, I would say it's definitely worth the read. It lost a star because I found the writing to be a little dense for my liking and had to re-read certain passages to understand what the author was saying. However it was really well edited and moved along at a good pace so I was pretty much glued to the pages. Highly recommend.
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  • ·Karen·
    January 1, 1970
    It's probably me.This happens to me not infrequently these days. I read a book. I can recognise, intellectually, that it is well written. The concept is an intriguing one - to re-write the Antigone story in an up-to-date setting (and it IS very up-to-date); it has a lot to say about the state of politics in our twittering, tweeting world, in our world of asymmetrical warfare; the characters resonate, the writing never jars, the font is large enough, it sneaks in at well under 300 pages so I can' It's probably me.This happens to me not infrequently these days. I read a book. I can recognise, intellectually, that it is well written. The concept is an intriguing one - to re-write the Antigone story in an up-to-date setting (and it IS very up-to-date); it has a lot to say about the state of politics in our twittering, tweeting world, in our world of asymmetrical warfare; the characters resonate, the writing never jars, the font is large enough, it sneaks in at well under 300 pages so I can't even complain that it makes excessive demands on my time.And yet it does nothing. It doesn't move or excite me. After around page 150, knowing how the Antigone story ends, you know, not well for anyone really, it didn't even interest me much. Part of the problem might be the choice of narrative focus, which shifts from character to character. A good method to show differing points of view, yes, but it creates distance, and a certain regret when Isma ( Ismene, the Antigone mirroring is very well flagged up) disappears from sight. You know, just when you were getting to like her. I dunno. It's probably me.
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    This was a 3-star read for most of the book, but the last section was so phenomenal that it elevated the entire novel to something really special. Shamsie establishes the sovereignty of her own story before really diving into the Antigone references at the end, and she plays with a range of themes from Antigone and addresses contemporary issues without diminishing either goal. I leave this book with a much deeper sense of how complicated it is to be a British Muslim than I've gotten from any no This was a 3-star read for most of the book, but the last section was so phenomenal that it elevated the entire novel to something really special. Shamsie establishes the sovereignty of her own story before really diving into the Antigone references at the end, and she plays with a range of themes from Antigone and addresses contemporary issues without diminishing either goal. I leave this book with a much deeper sense of how complicated it is to be a British Muslim than I've gotten from any nonfiction. If the Man Booker judges wanted a commercial, topical, powerful book on the shortlist, it’s an absolute affront that this wasn’t chosen over such a superficial, incompetent book like Exit West. An AFFRONT, I say.
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    This book reminded me of why I love fiction so much. Sometimes I pick up a book for escapism, sometimes to be challenged by a writer who is a master with language, occasionally it's because I feel obligated to read a particular book. Home Fire reminded me that if I was to distill my enjoyment down to one factor it would be the pleasure to be had from placing yourself in the minds and lives of others. Particularly when these others are experiencing things you thought you could never understand. This book reminded me of why I love fiction so much. Sometimes I pick up a book for escapism, sometimes to be challenged by a writer who is a master with language, occasionally it's because I feel obligated to read a particular book. Home Fire reminded me that if I was to distill my enjoyment down to one factor it would be the pleasure to be had from placing yourself in the minds and lives of others. Particularly when these others are experiencing things you thought you could never understand. The inexplicable news reports on "jihadi brides" and radicalised British citizens can, in the hands of Kamilia Shamsie become less abstract, infinitely more complex and thus more human somehow than the reports in the media we have all read about. This book succeeds, I think, towards generating empathy and a burgeoning understanding of contentious problems of the modern world and surely that has to be one of fictions greatest goals. I loved this novel not only because it deals with current events with such immediacy. But I loved it for it's simply told story of love, loss, betrayal and forgiveness. I knew this was a retelling of Antigone but not being familiar with that story, I read Home Fire in blissful ignorance of the arc the story would take and I am really pleased to have had that experience. I am sure I might revisit this if I ever read Sophocles and glean more from the text. However, I rather think this book stands well enough on it's own.Shamsie does take a while to get this story going, but I think that slow start is important when you consider the novel as a whole. It is actually the quiet innocence of those hours spent in the coffee shop with Isma and Eamonn during the first few chapters that I turned to at the end with great melancholy. My other great joy in this book was the whole thing with sound, that was such a clever motif that develops beautifully through the novel.Everything about this book worked for me and I am bereft it is over.
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  • Claire McAlpine
    January 1, 1970
    I read Home Fire in two days, I thought it was brilliantly done, heartbreaking, tragic, essential.Underpinning the novel is the premise of Sophocles' 5thC BC play Antigone, an exploration of the conflict between those who affirm the individual's human rights and those who must protect the state's security. Before reading Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire, I downloaded a translation of Antigone to read, acknowledging herself that Anne Carson's translation of Antigone (Oberon Books, 2015) andThe Burial a I read Home Fire in two days, I thought it was brilliantly done, heartbreaking, tragic, essential.Underpinning the novel is the premise of Sophocles' 5thC BC play Antigone, an exploration of the conflict between those who affirm the individual's human rights and those who must protect the state's security. Before reading Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire, I downloaded a translation of Antigone to read, acknowledging herself that Anne Carson's translation of Antigone (Oberon Books, 2015) andThe Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone by Seamus Heaney were constant companions as she wrote the novel, also expressing gratitude for the children's book version The Story of Antigone and its author Ali Smith.In Ali Smith's version there is a discussion at the end of the book about what stories are, it reads:"Stories are a kind of nourishment. We do needthem, and the fact that the story of Antigone, astory about a girl who wants to honour the bodyof her dead brother, and why she does, keeps being told suggests that we do need this story, that itmight be one of the ways that we make life anddeath meaningful, that it might be a way to helpus understand life and death, and that there's something nourishing in it, even though it is fullof terrible and difficult things, a very dark storyfull of sadness."Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire is a contemporary retelling of the classic play, set in contemporary London. Even though I knew the premise of the story from having read the play, the story unfolded as if I had no prior knowledge of its likely outcome, it has its own unique surprises and insights, making it a compelling read.We meet Isma, the eldest daughter of a family, who've been raised by their mother and grandmother, as she announces to her twin brother and sister Aneeka and Parvaiz that she is going to the US to complete her PhD studies that were put on pause after the death of their mother and grandmother within the space of a year, leaving her to become the mother to griefstruck twelve-year-old twins. She had briefly known her father, but the twins never.The rigorous interrogation she is put through on leaving the UK reveal something in her family background that their entire family has tried to keep quiet, just wanting to move on with their lives, that their father had abandoned them and gone to fight as a jihadi in Afghanistan and had died en route to Guantanamo.While in the US, Isma meets Eamonn, the son of a British politician she detests, setting in motion a litany of events that will have a catastrophic impact on both their families."Eamonn, that was his name. How they'd laughed in Wembley when the newspaper article accompanying the family picture revealed this detail, an Irish spelling to disguise a Muslim name - Ayman become Eamonn so that people would know the father had integrated."For Parvaiz, the only son, the lack of a father figure created a void, his grandmother had been the only family member willing to talk about him, but her stories were always of the boy, never of the man he became, a subject she was reluctant to be drawn into."He had always watched boys and their fathers with an avidity composed primarily of hunger. Whenever any of those fathers had made a certain gesture towards him - a hand placed on the back of his neck, the word 'son', an invitation to a football match - he'd retreat, both ashamed and afraid in a jumbled way that only grew more so as the years passed and the world of girls and boys grew more separate, so there were times he was not a twin to a twin but rather the only male in a house that knew all the secrets that women shared with on another but none that fathers taught their son."It's a riveting, intense novel that propels the reader forward, even while something in us wants to resist what we can feel coming. It pits love against loyalty, family versus country, and cruelly displays how hard it is for families to distance themselves from their ancestral past.
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  • Sonja Arlow
    January 1, 1970
    A few years ago, one of my best friends eloped to marry a wonderful man. The fact that he was Muslim never even registered with me until she, a former Catholic, tentatively started telling people about this. She got mixed reactions even from those closest to her. Most recently her longest standing friend from London flatly refused to come visit her in SA because of “that Muslim” whom she has never spoken to or met. It broke her heart. So, at the start of Eamonn and Aneeka’s relationship I though A few years ago, one of my best friends eloped to marry a wonderful man. The fact that he was Muslim never even registered with me until she, a former Catholic, tentatively started telling people about this. She got mixed reactions even from those closest to her. Most recently her longest standing friend from London flatly refused to come visit her in SA because of “that Muslim” whom she has never spoken to or met. It broke her heart. So, at the start of Eamonn and Aneeka’s relationship I thought I knew where the story was going. Prejudice and judgement of a person of a particular faith.The story IS about that, but it is also so much more Complicated, with a capital C.Its about a young woman who raised her siblings when she herself was just a child. Its about a sister who will do anything to get her brother back. Its about this brother that made a stupid mistake and gets trapped in a situation no one could prepare him for.The story is told from 5 different perspectives and each new POV added a layer of intensity to a plot that was a little slow to start. The fact that some of the characters had ties to jihadists, and others to politics made this very thought provoking indeed. This is a tale full of complex family relationships, religious and cultural identity, and the impact of outside forces on this delicate balance.The writing was excellent and held my attention like a magnet. Highly recommended
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  • Dannii Elle
    January 1, 1970
    This is my sixth (and favourite) book read from the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist.This contemporary reimagining of Antigone uses a multitude of perspectives as a nexus to explore the differing experiences a Muslim individual can face, whilst residing in Britain. The opening scene introduces the reader to Isma, as a rigorous searching of her possessions ensues before boarding her plane to America. Her embarrassment is acute, and yet she knows she must say thank you for the privilege of being This is my sixth (and favourite) book read from the Women's Prize for Fiction longlist.This contemporary reimagining of Antigone uses a multitude of perspectives as a nexus to explore the differing experiences a Muslim individual can face, whilst residing in Britain. The opening scene introduces the reader to Isma, as a rigorous searching of her possessions ensues before boarding her plane to America. Her embarrassment is acute, and yet she knows she must say thank you for the privilege of being subjected to this instance of everyday racism, that her ethnicity and religion elicits.This initial scene has no bearing on the future proceedings of the novel and is just one of many instances that acted as a catalyst in exposing the colour prejudice rampant in this country. This exploration of our current political climate made me so aware of my inadvertent white privilege and not only did this open up factors of the Muslim identity, that I had no prior knowledge of, but it allowed the reader to see how casual racism enforces a division in people, and to actually feel how it effects the members it seeks to isolate.Whilst continuing to be a powerfully political and insightful read throughout, this also delivered a heart-wrenching plot focused on a topic that needs no gender, ethnicity, culture, or sexual preference to identify it. This topic is love. This all-consuming and all-powerful emotion, in all its many forms, is fully explored. This novel opens up the intricacies of relationships between father and sons, siblings with one another, two strangers meeting in a foreign country, what is shared by two brothers in arms, growing lust entwined in bed-sheets, the shared passion of a nation, and so many more nuanced and varied instances, that are all categorised under the same four-lettered word. Kamila Shamsie has proven herself as a writer I will forever seek more from. I found her prose to vary between the startling bleak and the ardently prosaic. I found her an author to never shy away from a controversial topic and to, instead, to confront the difficult in every situation. I found her eye-opening and gut-wrenching, but also awe-inspiring and heart-felt. This novel is, in short, as close to perfection, for me, as any a book can get.
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  • Peter Boyle
    January 1, 1970
    "Everything else you can live around, but not death. Death you have to live through."Well I can certainly see why this novel has earned heavy praise. It examines provocative themes like the plight of the modern Muslim and radicalization in such a nuanced and insightful way. But the aspect of the story I admired most was its focus on family, and in particular, the sacrifices we make for our loved ones. When you value their happiness as more important than your own. When the thought of living with "Everything else you can live around, but not death. Death you have to live through."Well I can certainly see why this novel has earned heavy praise. It examines provocative themes like the plight of the modern Muslim and radicalization in such a nuanced and insightful way. But the aspect of the story I admired most was its focus on family, and in particular, the sacrifices we make for our loved ones. When you value their happiness as more important than your own. When the thought of living without them is so painful that you find it impossible to go on.What shocked me about the story was the ease with which Parvaiz was radicalized. I suppose he was quite an aimless young man to begin with, but the cunning recruiter preyed on his weaknesses and coaxed him into becoming a person he never truly wanted to be. I have often read about similar enlistments of ordinary citizens in the news, and been baffled as to how it transpired. I'm not saying this story will make me sympathetic to their situation, but it will help me to understand how such a thing might happen.If I have one criticism of Home Fire it's the lack of Isma. The book begins brilliantly with the observations of her level-headed, analytical mind, but as the plot progresses she is sidelined. Though perhaps the reason things turn out the way they do is down to the fact that she becomes less involved. Without giving too much away, the second half of the story ups the stakes dramatically. And as for the ending, all I can say is wow. This is a fearless, thought-provoking novel, and an urgent read for the times we live in.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Audiobook performed by Tania Rodrigues 7h 54 min A shortlist candidate for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018.If my reading of longlist nominee Miss Burma was the least read book, then Home Fire certainly appears to be one of the more popular reads of my fellow reviewers. Written by Kamila Shamsie, a British-Pakistani author, Home Fire strikes a relevant chord in the post 9/11 world where discrimination against Muslim men and women in our airports, media, and among the general public is Audiobook performed by Tania Rodrigues 7h 54 min A shortlist candidate for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018.If my reading of longlist nominee Miss Burma was the least read book, then Home Fire certainly appears to be one of the more popular reads of my fellow reviewers. Written by Kamila Shamsie, a British-Pakistani author, Home Fire strikes a relevant chord in the post 9/11 world where discrimination against Muslim men and women in our airports, media, and among the general public is an all too familiar story. However, I cannot say that I really enjoyed it. Let me make it clear that the audio performance was solid, but I have this distance in feeling with the story. It is quite likely that characterization and cold prose are the most likely culprits that affected my own reading experience. As well, I just felt the transitions between chapters were uneven at times, albeit this gradually became less of an issue as the book reached its final three chapters. Lastly, the most obvious difference between my own experience versus that of other readers- I have no prior knowledge of the Sophocles Antigone comparison and I cannot help but feel that had I that experience, I just might have been bowled over. Or maybe not?
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Now Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018 - well-deserved!!" - Go back to uni, study the law. Accept the law, even when it's unjust. - You don't love either justice or our brother if you can say that." This book tells the story of a British family with Pakistani roots that gets torn apart by the ideology of jihad - and the story is modeled after Sophocles' classic greek tragedy Antigone. I loved the idea, as it underlines that the turmoil we are facing today is not as new as we like to as Now Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018 - well-deserved!!" - Go back to uni, study the law. Accept the law, even when it's unjust. - You don't love either justice or our brother if you can say that." This book tells the story of a British family with Pakistani roots that gets torn apart by the ideology of jihad - and the story is modeled after Sophocles' classic greek tragedy Antigone. I loved the idea, as it underlines that the turmoil we are facing today is not as new as we like to assume. Rather, it can at least in part be traced back to aspects of the human condition and universal feelings that have not changed in the last 2,000 years.The main protagonists of "Home Fire" are Isma and her twin siblings Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their father was an Islamic terrorist who died on his way to Guantánamo, and after the death of their mother, then 21-year-old Isma is left to provide for her 12-year-old siblings. After Aneeka and Parvaiz finish school, Isma decides to leave London (where all siblings have lived all their lives) and finally continue her studies in the United States. While Isma and Aneeka seem to be able to overcome their past, Parvaiz' life slowly unravels until he finally decides to move to Raqqa and take part in the jihad, just as his father did. The story is split in five parts, each moving the story forward from a different point of view:- Isma- Aneeka- Parvaiz- Karamat, the British Home Secretary in charge of fighting terrorism, who is himself the child of Muslim immigrants- Eamonn, Karamat's son, who falls in love with AneekaI would like to talk a little about the parallels to "Antigone", but beware: While I stopped my little summary above to avoid spoilers, the connections between "Home Fire" and "Antigone" will give you some hints concerning what will happen to the three siblings! Okay, let's go: (view spoiler)[Oedipus, the King of Thebes, and his mother Iokaste had four children: Antigone (here: Aneeka), Ismene (Isma), Polyneices (Parvaiz), and Eteocles (no direct counterpart). After Oedipus' death (for more on his story, check: Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus), Polyneices and Eteocles start a civil war fighting for the throne of Thebes, in which both die. The new king Creon (Karamat), brother of Iokaste, blames Polyneices (Parvaiz), whom he had previously banned from Thebes, and orders to deny Polyneices (Parvaiz) the burial rites. Although Ismene (Isma) tries to prevent it, Antigone (Aneeka) goes ahead and buries her brother (Polyneices/Parvaiz) anyway, as she refuses to conform to a law she sees as unjust and to male dominance. Instead, she chooses to conform to what she perceives as the rules of the gods. Antigone's (Aneeka's) fiancé Haimon (Eamonn) tries to save her from the consequences of her actions, but Creon (Karamat) realizes that he has gone too far only after it is too late: Both Antigone (Aneeka) and Haimon (Eamonn) die. (hide spoiler)]I particularly liked that both in "Antigone" and in "Home Fire", none of the main characters are outright bad: They are trying to do what's right, but some of them make bad choices and take the wrong decisions - with devastating consequences. The way Shamsie talks about race, class, religion, identity and belonging is very lucid and daring, as she asks extremely difficult questions that are almost impossible to answer. I was fascinated by the character of Karamat, who at some point asks himself:"Working class or Millionaire, Muslim or Ex-Muslim, Proud-Son-of-Migrants or anti-Migrant, Moderniser or Traditionalist? Will the real Karamat Lone please stand up?" I also enjoyed how the people of Thebes who question their king in "Antigone" are mirrored in "Home Fire", media frenzy and all. Other parts of the novel, especially the scenes in Pakistan and the ending, are not told realistically, but almost dream- or movie-like. The effect is rather puzzling, but not in a bad way, and I will have to think about those scenes more in order to interpret them.Although the language is not nearly as good as in Autumn or Lincoln in the Bardo, this book would also be a worthy winner of the Booker - yes, I said it! For instance, it is way, way better than the former winner The White Tiger, a book that also talked about class and injustice. This will most likely make my shortlist. (Update: It did make my shortlist, but unfortunately, the Booker judges did not shortlist it).
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  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    I have not read any of Shamsie’s previous novels, so this was new territory for me. It’s a good sign, I guess, that I have immediately added two other books to my “to read” list to try some more. This book isn’t perfect, but it is very, very good.I have seen some discussions about the use Shamsie makes of Antigone, perhaps specifically Anouilh’s version produced in occupied France during World War II. This influence is clear. You can map the characters in Home Fire against characters in Antigone I have not read any of Shamsie’s previous novels, so this was new territory for me. It’s a good sign, I guess, that I have immediately added two other books to my “to read” list to try some more. This book isn’t perfect, but it is very, very good.I have seen some discussions about the use Shamsie makes of Antigone, perhaps specifically Anouilh’s version produced in occupied France during World War II. This influence is clear. You can map the characters in Home Fire against characters in Antigone. The final quarter of the book closely parallels much of the action in the play. But I think it is fair to say that Home Fire is “inspired by” rather than “a re-telling of” Antigone. The first three-quarters of the book have the right characters in, but aren’t telling the same story (perhaps the background to it?). Shamsie ditches several characters from the original completely and merges others into a single character. She swaps the ages of the two sisters at the heart of the story. So, she has played fast and loose with the idea of re-telling, but the inspiration is clear to see. However, I would also add that this book works perfectly well standalone: you can read it and enjoy it with no knowledge of Antigone and it will still be excellent.Recently, I read Preti Taneja’s We That Are Young. That also uses a classic play (King Lear), although it is more of a straightforward re-telling. Taneja’s book is split into sections each of which is named after one of the main characters. The same is true of Shamsie’s novel, but I prefer the way Shamsie has used her source material (although Taneja’s book is also extremely good).In Home Fire, we get the story of Isma and her twin, younger siblings Aneeka and Parvaiz. Since their mother died, Isma has raised the two younger children. The story starts when Isma gets the opportunity to travel to America to resume her interrupted studies (the other children now being old enough to not need her around). Her journey to America quickly reveals some of the key themes that will develop. At the airport, she is detained for questioning purely, it seems, because she is a Muslim. Once in America, she continues to worry about her brother and sister and it soon becomes clear that something has gone seriously wrong with Parvaiz. Then Isma meets someone whose father is an influential politician back in England. To say any more would be to risk spoilers. But we are thrown into a story of family secrets, clandestine love and tested loyalties against a backdrop of political manoeuvring and religious/racial tension. Key themes in Antigone are split loyalties between family and state, citizenship and the roles of women. All these are echoed in Home Fire and Shamsie holds a mirror up to our society and challenges us about these things.I enjoyed the way the tension gradually builds. The first section focuses on Isma and her journey to America where she meets the man with the politician father. It’s scene setting and there isn’t that much dramatic tension. But then subsequent sections turn to other people and we start to learn about the children’s father and about the politician. Then we learn what is happening to Parvaiz and that leads us to the very dramatic finale.I said at the start that I didn’t think the book was perfect. And, for me, the main fault lies in the section focused on Parvaiz. It doesn’t have the authenticity of the other sections and the sudden change of story telling to short, non-chronological sections was confusing when it didn’t need to be done like that.I have to say, though, that I really liked the ending. It took me by surprise a bit because there are several pages of other stuff at the back of the book, so I didn’t realise it was the ending until I turned the page and discovered I’d run out of story. But my instant reaction was satisfaction that Shamsie chose to end it like that. It’s a twist on the ending of Antigone and I doubt a movie director would let it stand, but I thought it was a wonderful ending to the novel.A very strong book and definitely one for my personal Man Booker shortlist.
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  • Viv JM
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! To say this is a powerful book would be an understatement. It is riveting, thought provoking and totally compelling. And that ending, oh my word, that ending! I know that this book was based on Antigone, but not being familiar with the story hasn't detracted from my enjoyment of this book, although it has made me curious to learn more and I have placed a hold at the library for Ali Smith's retelling (albeit for kids!) The Story of Antigone. I may come back to his book (or at least this revi Wow! To say this is a powerful book would be an understatement. It is riveting, thought provoking and totally compelling. And that ending, oh my word, that ending! I know that this book was based on Antigone, but not being familiar with the story hasn't detracted from my enjoyment of this book, although it has made me curious to learn more and I have placed a hold at the library for Ali Smith's retelling (albeit for kids!) The Story of Antigone. I may come back to his book (or at least this review) once I have read that.This is the second book I have read by Kamila Shamsie (having started with Kartography earlier this year) and I am keen to catch up with everything she has written, based on how much I loved these two.Highly, highly recommended.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsA relevant novel given our political climate, Home Fire details the complicated ordeal of three siblings haunted by the legacy of their jihadist father. The story begins with Isma, the eldest sister, a Londoner of Pakistani descent on her way to start her Ph.D. at Amherst. We then learn about her younger twin siblings, Aneeka, a headstrong and intelligent law student, and Parvaiz, who disappears to follow his own dreams. When Isma and Aneeka learn about Parvaiz's whereabouts, their wors 3.5 starsA relevant novel given our political climate, Home Fire details the complicated ordeal of three siblings haunted by the legacy of their jihadist father. The story begins with Isma, the eldest sister, a Londoner of Pakistani descent on her way to start her Ph.D. at Amherst. We then learn about her younger twin siblings, Aneeka, a headstrong and intelligent law student, and Parvaiz, who disappears to follow his own dreams. When Isma and Aneeka learn about Parvaiz's whereabouts, their worst fears come to life. Amidst their turmoil over Parvaiz, they both encounter Eamonn, the son of a powerful political figure who may have the resources to rescue Parvaiz. The fate of these two families intersect to form the main thrust of Home Fire's narrative: what are we willing to sacrifice to fight for who we love? I appreciated the overarching messages in Home Fire about xenophobia, extremism, and radicalization. Kamila Shamsie centers these political topics with great empathy, allowing us to see the hearts of her characters even when they could look like monsters if we saw them on one of our TV screens in real life. Her writing has a quiet yet immediate flow that makes Home Fire a quick read, even as it traverses contentious topics. As a contemporary retelling of Antigone, it earns its place on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize, given how Shamsie portrays important, difficult issues with compassion without sparing us any of the necessary heartbreak.I only give Home Fire a lower star rating because I did not connect all the way with its characters. Something about Shamsie's writing made me feel distant from them. I could feel sympathy for their struggles on an intellectual level, yet I missed that emotional piece I found in books like The Song of Achilles and A Little Life . Perhaps more distinct development of the characters' identities or feelings toward one another (like a more compelling formation of Aneeka and Eamonn's relationship) would have won me over more.Overall, a good book I would recommend to those interested in issues like xenophobia and extremism. I will discuss Home Fire at a feminist book club later so I look forward to seeing if that discussion affects my thoughts, as I did notice some intriguing themes of how traces of toxic masculinity impacted the male characters in the book. Either way, we need more representations of characters like these and more books written by women of color, so for those qualities, I feel glad that Home Fire has received the attention it has.
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  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 A modern gloss on Antigone, this Booker nominee is now in 2nd place of my ranked longlisted books (with four other nominees to go!). Unlike several GR friends who either had no prior knowledge of its classical connection, or weren't conversant in the original Greek, that element undoubtedly enhanced my appreciation of what Shamsie achieves here (my degrees are in theatre, so I am fairly knowledgeable about the original texts). It was fascinating to me not only to see how the central elements 4.5 A modern gloss on Antigone, this Booker nominee is now in 2nd place of my ranked longlisted books (with four other nominees to go!). Unlike several GR friends who either had no prior knowledge of its classical connection, or weren't conversant in the original Greek, that element undoubtedly enhanced my appreciation of what Shamsie achieves here (my degrees are in theatre, so I am fairly knowledgeable about the original texts). It was fascinating to me not only to see how the central elements were made to fit modern times, but also the changes - some subtle, some not - that Shamsie makes to strengthen her own points. For example, in the original, Antigone is the dowdier sister, with Ismene the beautiful one. Here, Aneeka (the Antigone analogue) is far more attractive, which is necessary for her to entice Eamonn (Haemon in the original), with her sister Isma the less attractive. Tiresias, the blind prophet in the original, is transmogrified here into Teresa, the wife of Karamat (King Creon in the original), so that her warnings are far more personal. To be sure there are some clunky sections and some things DON'T work: her non-chronological juggling of events in the Parvaiz (Polyneices) section are needlessly confusing. And although the last 50 pages are incredibly tense, exciting and 'just right', the fact that there is no resolution to Creon's dilemma following the tragic events (as in the original), is slightly disappointing ... although the ending that IS there is sheer brilliance. Fingers crossed this will make the short list; it will be interesting if both Shamsie and Ali Smith get the nod, since the former profusely thanks the latter in the acknowledgements page. (PS: in the interests of full disclosure, Shamsie ALSO thanks Jatinder Varma for suggesting the idea of the book in the first place; 30 years ago I worked with him when I was student editor of the 'Asian Theatre Journal' while getting my MFA at UH; Varma was the head of the Editorial Board. However, that fact really had no effect on my review, either way!)
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