Home Fire: A Novel

by Kamila Shamsie

Paperback, 2018




Riverhead Books (2018), Edition: Reprint, 288 pages


"From an internationally acclaimed novelist, the suspenseful and heartbreaking story of a family ripped apart by secrets and driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother's death, an invitation from a mentor in America has allowed 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 the 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?"--… (more)


(450 ratings; 4.1)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Isma, Aneeka, and Parvaiz have come of age without their parents. Their father was largely absent, and considered a terrorist by the British government. He reportedly died en route to Guantanamo. Isma was 19 when her mother died, and put her life on hold to raise the twins. Now Isma is 28, Aneeka &
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Parvaiz are 19, and Isma accepts an opportunity to resume her studies in the US. She meets Eamonn, son of the UK Home Secretary, and despite coffee dates her hopes of romance don’t materialize. It’s a different matter when Eamonn returns to England and meets Aneeka. Sparks fly, but Aneeka insists on keeping their relationship secret due to his father’s public anti-Muslim views. Meanwhile, Parvaiz has disappeared, and the sisters quickly learn he has been recruited for terrorist activity in Istanbul.

Each section of the novel is narrated by one of the principal characters, and the timing of each narrative overlaps somewhat. The reader experiences events from different perspectives, and can connect the details in each narrative into a story that is not fully visible to those involved. Tension mounts as Parvaiz’s activities unfold, and as Aneeka’s relationship with Eamonn inevitably sees the light of day. The novel delivers a climax that I absolutely didn’t see coming. Despite the horrifying content, the final pages are brilliantly written and cap off a stellar work.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
This devastating novel has echoes of the Greek tragedy Antigone (but you don't need it as a prequel), with two sisters caught between their brother, their father's past, a powerful politician, and his son. It's set in the US, Britain, Pakistan, and Syria, and opens with the American life of Isma,
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elder sister to twins Aneeka and Parvaiz, all three children of Muslim fighter Adil, who died in Bagram, Afghanistan, after being tortured. Isma and Aneeka seem to have escaped the violent politics of their father, but son Parvaiz, an unambitious sound engineer, falls under the influence of a jihadist and runs away to join ISIS. When Aneeka meets Eammon, the son of the British Home Secretary Karamat, she tries to rescue Parvaiz via the arrogant politician, who has advanced his own career by advocating only for "good" Muslims. Isma, Eammon, Aneeka, and Karamat each hold forth in sections of the narrative. The approaching doom is so menacing that the reader hesitates to turn the concluding pages. The intense emotion and delusion underlying each character make this an unforgettable novel of torture and obsession.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
After their mother dies, Isma must care for her younger twin brother and sister Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their father, a jihadist, had died years before, allegedly as a prisoner on his way to Guantanamo. As the novel opens, Aneeka and Parvaiz are adults, Aneeka a law student and Parvaiz gainfully
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employed, and Isma is on her way to America to continue her interrupted education.

In America, Isma meets Eamonn, the son of an important Muslim politician in England (soon to be Home Secretary). Unknown to Eamonn, his father, a thoroughly secularized and assimilated Muslim, had in the past refused to help Isma and her family with the problems they faced when her father was determined to be a jihadist. Although Isma is romantically attracted to Eamonn, he feels only a brotherly relationship toward her.

While Isma was in America, Parvaiz has been seduced by ISIS recruiters, and disappears. The family are devastated. Then when Aneeka meets Eamonn, who has returned to Englan, they begin a torrid relationship--the question is whether it is true love, or does Aneeka have ulterior motives because Eamonn's family is so politically powerful. Events propel the two families inexorably toward the future, and the reader will have to decide whether the ending is transcendent or tragic. (Hint--Shamsie has stated that the novel is based on the drama Antigone.)

The novel is narrated in several sections, each from the pov of one of the primary characters--Isma, Eamonn, Parvaiz, Aneeka, and Karamat Lone, the Home Secretary and Eamonn's father. It is a thoughtful look at issues of immigration, terrorism, and our reactions (or overreactions) to terrorism and the pain caused to the innocent because of our fears. This is the first book I have read by Shamsie but I will be reading more.

Highly recommended.

4 1/2 stars
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
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
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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. U forgettable, some of the visuals displaying a sisters love I don't think I will forget.

ARC from edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member Cariola
(Just finished reading some reviews of this book on LT. Yikes, people are giving away WAY too much of the plot! I will do my best not to repeat that faux pas.. Any plot details below are revealed in the first few chapters.)

Buzz may already have told you that Shamsie's latest novel is a modern-day
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spin on Sophocles's Antigone. It focuses on the intertwined relationships of two families. At 28, Isma is the de facto head of the Pasha family, three siblings who hold dual British and Pakistani citizenship. Her absentee father, a jihadi warrior, was assumed to have died on the way to Guantanemo long ago, and her mother had died seven years earlier when the twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz, were only 12,. Now Isma is ready to start living her own life, having won a scholarship to an American university. But without her steadying influence, things start to go awry. Parvaiz succumbs to the recruitment tactics of a radical Islamic group, and a frantic Aneeka begs her sister to come back to London to help to bring their wayward brother home. When Isma hesitates, Aneeka takes extraordinary measures to accomplish the task on her own.

British Home Secretary Karamat Lone is a politician with his sites on the Prime Minister's seat. He married a wealthy American designer whose money helped propel him to power. Once there, he decided that the best way to advance in his career would be to turn his back on the Muslim community, which he has done with a vengeance. Daughter Emily is away at an American university, and son Eamonn is a handsome, charming, but rather aimless young man. When members of the two families meet, relationships become complicated, and, if you know the story of Antigone, you won't be wrong to expect a tragic turn.

I've had mixed feelings about some of Shamsie's earlier novels, and I wasn't too sure about this one as well. However, the further I got into the story, the more engaged I became. The book is divided into sections devoted to the viewpoints of the main characters (Isma, Eamonn, Parvaiz, Aneeka, and Karamat). The first section is mostly setup and goes rather slowly, although it does establish the relationships among the Pasha siblings and brings Eamonn into the picture. As his seemingly strange but passionate relationship with Aneeka develops, the plot thickens, and by the time I reached Aneeka's section, I could not put the book down until I finished the novel. That part is not a simple straightforward narrative, as are the others: its short section consists of some brief but beautiful poetry, salacious newspaper reports, TV news voice-overs, and official government statements, all of which help to build the tension and lead to an unexpected conclusion.

Home Fire was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, and rightfully so; I'm rather surprised and quite disappointed that it didn't make it to the short list. Shamsie has come into her own with this novel, her best so far, in my opinion.
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LibraryThing member alanteder
As chance would have it, earlier this year I actually read the classic Greek tragedy which serves as the rough template for Shamsie's "Home Fire." I'm not going to name that here as that would likely be a spoiler, but I think if you look at many other reviews it will likely be mentioned anyway.

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any case, the reason I picked up the book was due to its being on the 2017 Booker longlist and the visual attraction of its cover art (for the North American Penguin Group/Riverhead Books edition) which seemed to echo Georgia O'Keeffe's flower paintings. I probably won't read the entire Booker list, so cover art can make a difference in the selection process. I wasn't initially aware of the book's inspirational basis and it wasn't given away in the cover blurb. It is mentioned finally in the author's Afterword.

Even knowing that inspiration, you are not totally spoiled for the book as the exact family connections and fates are not completely identical. You will have a sense of imminent tragedy in any case without perhaps knowing the precise events and individuals who will be affected.

I found "Home Fire" to be engaging and very readable and even when the inspiration becomes clear it was still completely engrossing. This was especially so despite its multi-character POV style which is normally not my favourite type of writing. Shamsie tells her story from several characters' POVs as each of them becomes the central figure for a period of time. The progression felt completely suited and appropriate to the story.
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LibraryThing member Berly
Modern day British Muslims, Islamist terrorists, love, family and state. This novel, set in England and the US, looks at two families and the very different paths the children take. Five sections are each narrated by one of the principal characters, continuously moving the timeline forward.
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Brilliantly told and the ending blew me away. Timley and captivating.
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LibraryThing member villemezbrown
I was trepidatious as the book started a little slow, posing as a domestic soap opera, but it just kept building momentum as it incorporated prejudice against Muslims, Muslim extremism, the Islamic state and British politics, all the time keeping family at the center as it heads toward its
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devastating, beautiful ending. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member missizicks
I haven't read Antigone. I don't know whether it would have helped or not if I had. Home Fire is the story of three siblings from a British Muslim family who each react to the disappearance and death of their jihadi father in their own way. One takes on responsibility for the family after their
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mother and grandmother die, putting her own dreams on hold. Another becomes absorbed in her relationship with her twin brother. And the twin brother becomes a jihadi himself. It's a clever story and kept me gripped in terms of the plot, but I didn't think any of the characters had enough depth. For all the drama, there was a detachment about them. I wanted to feel their passion, to find a deeper analysis of why young British Muslims choose to fight for terrorist organisations or become 'jihadi brides'. Instead it all felt a bit surfacey.
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LibraryThing member strandbooks
First, I'm such a disappointment as an English major. Halfway through the book I read some reviews to learn that this is a retelling of Antigone. Since I have no memory of Antigone even though I think I read it twice and saw it on stage, this knowledge didn't give away any plot except I knew it
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would be tragic, and that it was.

The story revolves around 2 British families whose parents immigrated from Pakistan. The conflict comes when they cross paths. In one family a young son becomes a jihadist and in the other they are giving up all their roots as much as possible. The first half of the novel is so deeply rooted at the character level while the second half becomes becomes more about the community and their place in a world of turmoil.
I can't give away the ending but I've got questions! If anyone has read it I want to discuss.
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LibraryThing member Jane-Phillips
“Home Fire” is the story of two British families of Pakistani descent whose lives intercept due to a love affair between two of the children and the political and cultural leanings of the fathers. Isma is the older sister of twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz, now age 19, whom she has practically raised
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since the death of their mother and grandmother. Their father, whom the twins never knew, was a British jihadist who died whilst transported from Bagram to Guantanamo Bay. As Isma goes on her own journey to the US in order to study towards her PhD and Aneeka pursues a law degree, Parvaiz joins a British jihadist group and follows in his father’s footsteps to Syria in order to understand what happened to his father. He finds himself in the midst of the atrocities of the Islamic State, but is unable to escape and return home. Meanwhile, Eamonn, the son of Home Secretary, Karamat Lone, falls in love with Aneeka and is ultimately made to choose between love and his family. This is the first novel by this author that I have read and after reading this book, I will definitely read more of her work.
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LibraryThing member lesleynicol
Although quite interesting, I would this book to be a bit contrived and all improbable. The story of the boy's indoctrination is believable, but I could not see how he or any member of his family would have been able to travel as they did, given the fact that their father was a convicted terrorist
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who died in Guantamino Bay.
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LibraryThing member runner56
A story that explores the controversial subject of the indoctrination of the ISIS philosophy into a sympathetic yet ultimately misguided populace.

Isma Pasha followed her dream to America leaving behind her elegant sister Aneeka and her vulnerable yet impressionable brother Parvaiz. Eamonn, the son
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of outspoken Home Secretary Karamat Lone, becomes captivated by the beauty that is Aneeka. Does Aneeka reciprocate this love or is she merely using Eamonn to help rescue her twin brother Parvaiz who has since travelled to Syria but very quickly lives to regret this decision.

There is a nice balance in this novel between the Pasha family whose father Adil, had been a jihadi and had gone to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban and died for his beliefs, and Home Secretary Karamat Lone a traditionalist and yet a reformer. He loathed those citizens irrespective of beliefs or culture..."who treated the privilege of British citizenship as something that could be betrayed without consequences"...and further..."I hate the Muslims who make people hate Muslims"......

I can understand why Home Fire was the winner of the Women's Prize for fiction 2018 and whilst the first part of this novel was a little reticent and slow to impress the second half presented neatly formulated ideas and beliefs all leading to a very sudden unexpected conclusion. Home Fire is a story of the modern world and shows what happens when the corrupt and misguided prey on the weak and receptive.
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LibraryThing member janismack
I was drawn to this story because it gave a small insight to the plight of muslims living today. This is the story of two families that are changed forever because of the love affair between two members of each family. The story is told from the perspective of 5 different members of the family so
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you get to know these characters well. The ending was unexpectedand I found the story to get better toward the end.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
Home Fire is one of those elusive novels that's difficult to review. The story is told in five parts, each from a different character's perspective, and though each part picks up where its predecessor left off, each change in narrative and style results in a distinctly different feel. It's almost
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as though one were reading five interconnected stories—though it doesn't feel like that in the slightest. See how confused I am already?

From the opening pages, I was very much invested in this story. Isma's trials at the airport and her perspective of her life at an American university were engaging. Even as her story shifted toward little more than a conservation between her and another character at a coffee shop, I was eager to see where this story was going. I was ready to go with Isma on her journey.

Then the story shifted and became Eamonn's, then Parvaiz's. There was absolutely nothing wrong with each shift and all put together the five narratives make a good story. It's just that some were more engaging than others. Some characters I wanted to be fleshed out more. Some—especially Isma (maybe Karamat)—deserved their very own novel. This is especially true since Isma dominates the first fifty-five pages and then drops back to be little more than a secondary character to the love and politics than envelop the remaining four. Home Fire deals heavily in the subjects of love—both romantic and familial—politics, and religion. That place in between these topics where all things get messy is where you find Home Fire.

Overall, Kamila Shamsie's latest is a stupendous novel and it's a shame that it did not make it on the Man Booker shortlist. It was one of my personal favorites from the longlist, it is both intelligently written and highly readable. The writing style is simple but effective. The story always moves forward. Yes, it is uneven. Also, some of the plot points lack a bit of believability at times, but I don't feel like the novel hinged on realism. I would've enjoyed the story more had it gone in a different direction or been handled a little differently, but I was not displeased at all. My interest in the author has been sparked and I hope to read more of her work soon.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
This modern retelling of Antigone sucked me in. The narrative switched points of view and at times I felt more connected to certain characters than others, but the overall effect was enthralling.

“For girls, becoming women was inevitability, for boys, becoming men was ambition.”
LibraryThing member CarltonC
More of a "thriller" than I usually read, I greatly enjoyed this story of two British families of Pakistani immigrants being influenced by their families' backgrounds.
The story is grippingly told though five family narrators in a relatively sequential manner and works well at conveying the issues
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experienced which others will not think about.
My reservation is that the story is told to tell the author's specific story, rather than letting the story develop more organically from the characters and because of this, although the characters are well described, they come across as somewhat representative, rather than individual.

There are many vivid images and quotable passages, but I especially liked this about bushy beards:
"ecosystem beards (Aneeka had named them): large enough to support an ecosystem"

Well worth reading, but difficult to describe without spoilers.
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LibraryThing member Dorritt
This modern retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone features three British siblings of Pakistani descent variously haunted by the ghost of their jihadist father. Given the current political milieu, the novel can’t help but have a certain “ripped from the headlines” feel. But Shamsie’s plot is
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driven by far more ancient and enduring tragedies – the tragedy of children deprived of their parents, the tragedy of the death of a sibling, the tragedy of true love thwarted by families on opposite sides of an ancient feud, the tragedy of blind nationalism, the tragedy of sons desperate to live up to the ideals of their fathers, the tragedy of minority communities torn apart by internal dissent over their own complicity in the stereotypes they inspire.

Antigone is of course the obvious subtext, but what struck me were the parallels between the Muslim politician/minister in this tale and free negro abolitionists in pre-Civil War U.S., both struggling to resolve an impossible moral dilemma: is the “correct” path to assimilation through forceful insistence upon equal treatment, or is it through embracing law & order, even if it means abiding by laws that penalize one’s own race? The Pakistani-heritage British minister in this case chooses the later course, with predictably tragic consequences – predictable because, of course, Antigone is one of Sophocles’ great tragedies, so anyone going into this hoping for a “happily ever after” would have to be sadly naive.

Shamsie literally steps back and lets the characters tell their own tale, turning over each chapter to a different player in the tragedy who narrates their portion of the tale in first person. Which doesn’t mean Shamsie isn’t shaping the way we perceive the tale in more subtle ways: the language and setpieces she evokes are laden with connotation, from the opening chapter in which the eldest girl, Isma, debates whether emptying her suitcase in neat piles or dumping the clothes out haphazardly will seem less suspicious to the airport security personnel who are detaining her as she tries to enter the U.S. on a student visa, to the novel’s aching conclusion in which a grieving sister wailing over the body of her dead brother seems to summon up from the earth a howling dust storm.

I whizzed through this relatively short but powerful novel in less than a day, which I haven’t done in a long time; more than that, however, this is proving one of those books that inspires connections with real events and provokes different ways of perceiving familiar ideas. The fact that I find that surprising probably means that I’m the one that’s sadly naïve: whether the year is 441 BC or 2020 AD, it shouldn’t surprise me that tragedy is one literary theme that never ceased to haunt us.
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LibraryThing member DubaiReader
Well, I could have done without this being a contemporary reselling of Antigone, as I'm really not a fan of rehashing the old fables in modern form. Still, I was pretty much able to ignore the comparisons and take the story at face value - a tragic tale of fundamentalism and its
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disastrous effects on a family.

I read this because the author was attending our local Lit Fest, and I'm glad I did. It depicted the struggles of an immigrant family that, to all intents and purposes, had become British, yet their beliefs and values still undermined their every move and influenced their thoughts.

The eldest member of the family, Isma, has been caring for her younger siblings since their mother died. Now that they are older, Isma finally has the opportunity to do something for herself; to accept an invitation to carry out research in America under a much respected mentor. However, she still worries about her younger sister, Aneeka, and Aneeka's twin brother, Parvais. Aneeka can be reckless and foolish, while Parvais has been missing, believed to be attempting to follow in his father's fanatical footsteps.
When Isma meets Eamon, son of a powerful MP, and sends him to her family with a package to post, she opens up a can of worms that has no lid.
The fall-out from this event is cataclysmic, as the characters spiral downwards into their own black holes and Isma tries desperately to hold the family together.

Definitely a powerful read, a book of our times.

Also read, by the same author: Burnt Shadows (5*)
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LibraryThing member pgchuis
Isma and Aneeka's father was a jihadi, who died on his way to Guantanamo Bay. This has affected the way they live and Isma in particular has gone to great lengths to disassociate the family from his actions. However, now their brother Parvaiz has joined Isis.

The book is told from varying
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perspectives, including those of Isma (who goes to the US to study and there meets Eamonn, the Home Secretary's son), Aneeka (who hopes Eamonn will be able to influence his father in Parvaiz' favour), and Parvaiz himself in Syria. I thought it was excellent, especially the Parvaiz section, although I found the part towards the end where Aneeka is in Pakistan a little drawn out.

The character of the Home Secretary was probably the least nuanced in the novel and I wanted to hear more about what his wife really thought. The novel explored the different choices made by British Muslims and the issues faced by them.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member NeedMoreShelves
A powerful and important look at the lives of a family touched by Muslim extremism, and the ripples of tragedy radiating out from one decision. This book is narrated by multiple characters, and the only thing keeping it from being a 5-star read for me is the POV used for the end of the book - by
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far the least sympathetic in the novel, and the last person I'd want to experience the ultimate scenes with. Despite that quibble, however, this will be a story I won't soon forget.
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LibraryThing member p.d.r.lindsay
A powerful read although I was a little disappointed with the ending.

Isma has taken her mother's place for years. Now she can accept the invitation to study in America. Still she is concerned about Aneeka, her lovely sister in London, and their brother, Parvaiz, who is following his own dream. Alas
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his dream is to follow his jihadist father. Then Eamonn comes into their lives and all hell breaks loose.

Strong writing, strong characters, and a bomb of an ending. A good read for those struggling to understand ISIS and a good book for those who like a powerful story.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
What an interesting book! Jihadis and anti-Muslim populism written by a Muslim. And she can write - the narrative and the characters grow in the telling. My only reservation was in the telling of the love affair at the centre of the story - it seemed a little one dimensional and flat. I later
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realised that this may have been a conscious choice by the author, but not sure it worked. But this is a tiny quibble set against the heft of a book that was easy to read, told a compelling story, and makes the reader think again about stereotypes. And what a masterstroke - the populist Home Affair Minister is a lapsed Muslim!
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LibraryThing member LynnB
Isma has raised her twin siblings, Parvaiz and Aneeka, since she was a young adult. Now, the twins are 19, and Isma is leaving England for America to resume her studies. The Pasha family are originally from Pakistan, but are now UK citizens. Their late father, however, was involved with ISIS,
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putting the family under some suspicion. When the brother, Parvaiz, also joins a terrorist group, his sisters struggle in very different ways to get him out of that organization and home.

This novel is very timely and addresses issues of today. In the novel, the British Home Secretary wants to remove citizenship from UK citizens who join terrorist groups, something we see discussed by governments today. The idea of leaving people stateless is something that disturbs me. The author has shown what families will do to protect loved ones -- whether by assimilation, working with authorities or other more controversial means. Very well written and thought-provoking.
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LibraryThing member devilish2
An interesting look at being a Muslim in UK. It's meant to be based on Antigone. I think I might need to go and find what the storyline of that is to better appreciate this storyline.


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