It is said that art reflects society. Well this book is a perfect example of it. We live in a turbulent age when the question of identity and loyalty depends on our origins and this book is a great reflection of that. It is great to see a topical issue that has been raging for a while to be documented and immortalised in literature.
When the issue of Isis and jihadis first came up, there were documentaries and talks held as to the why and how. This book gives a great insight into the issue, what happens when the radicals and government clash in the face of religious ideologies and how individual is caught in the middle.
The book is loosely based on the Greek play Antigone. However it has been placed in a such a contemporary context. It is at once explosive and yet poignant in its treatment of the subject.
It is no wonder that Shamsie won the Bailey's prize in Fiction and made it to the Booker longlist. Also uncanny is her prediction of a Muslim Home secretary which turned out to be true in real life.
Isma after years of shouldering the responsibility of her twin siblings Aneeka and Pervaiz, is now free to forage her own path. She is leaving for the US to do a doctrate in Sociology. She meets Eamon a handsome Muslim young man, who is everything she is not and falls for him.
While she is away, her home is falling apart. Her brother has gone off to join the Isis media section and her sister is not talking to her. Aneeka is very close to her brother and is determined to bring him back. The only problem is she needs the government to be on her side, seek help from the Muslim Home Secretary, Karamat Lone who is against the family, a hardliner.
- The writing style is unique. It moves in a linear fashion. But we are given scenes in which we figure how the story has progressed and the direction it takes.
- The opening scene of Isma at the US immigration interrogation is such a powerful one. It hits the reader in the face and is a great insight into what it is like to have a Muslim name in the foreign world.
- The characters are so good, it is very easy to identify with them to see how it must have been for them.
- Karamat Lone is such a great character. Loved the way she portrays his Englishness and his Muslim identity. She captures the essence of him so well.
- The writing needs a bit getting used to. The writer plunges the reader directly into the story, throwing into scenes allowing the reader to work her way through. It demands a bit from the reader and reluctant readers may struggle a bit with it.
The book is one of those rare literary novels that reads like a thriller appealing to the mass while siding along with highbrow literature. That for me, was the best part. Making literature accessible to more people instead of just shutting them off with hard to follow writing style.
Easily one of my top reads of 2018. If you want to know what makes a really good novel is, look no further.