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Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie - Review

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I'd heard about this book sometime last year since it won a bunch of awards, and I knew a few people who had read it and raved about it, so I ordered it. It's been sitting by my bed for a couple of months because I knew I wanted to get to it but wasn't sure when.

I started it on Monday and it took me a bit to get into because I wasn't sure where it was going. I had read that it was a modern telling of Antigone, but I'm not familiar with that story so I can't say if it's faithful or anything. It's about a Muslim family in London in the 21st century. Isma is the older sister, and for the last seven years, since the deaths of their mother and grandmother, she's been parent to her siblings Aneeka and Parvaiz, who are twins. Aneeka is off now at law school and Parvaiz has disappeared - supposedly to a cousin in Karachi, Pakistan, but really to fight for Islamic State in Syria.

Isma heads off to Boston, in the United States, to take up a post graduate research position. There, she meets Eamonn, an over privileged mixed race man not unknown to Isma - his father, Karamat, is from the same area of London that she grew up in and was known to Isma's family. Karamat is now a politician tipped to be Prime Minister, and in fact during the novel gets promoted to Home Secretary. Isma really likes Eamonn and hopes for more between them, but in the next part of the novel Eamonn returns to London and strikes up a relationship with Aneeka.

At this point in the book I couldn't really get where the book was going to go, but then it picked up and we moved through three other points of view before the end. I don't really want to say more as I don't want to spoil the book, but I thought it as a whole had a lot of depth and nuance. I liked Isma best, I understood how she wanted to do her duty even when it was painful. I liked how both sisters wore hijab but were very different about it, and how we the reader were let into their worlds when their heads were uncovered. I loved the setting and the politics, and I was really shocked by the ending. I knew it wasn't going to end well, but I utterly didn't expect that.

I haven't read anything by Kamila Shamsie before (I think I started and gave up on A God in Every Stone) but I definitely would again. Nine out of ten, utterly captivating.

I'm posting a picture of the blurb too because I think this helps to understand the story better.

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