by Kamila Shamsie
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.
Practical-minded Isma has spent the years since her mother’s death watching out for her twin brother and sister in their North London home. When an invitation to grad school in America comes through unexpectedly, it brings the irresistible promise of freedom too long deferred. But even an ocean away, Isma can’t stop worrying about her beautiful, headstrong, politically inclined sister, Aneeka, and Parvaiz, their brother, who seems to be adrift—until suddenly he is half a globe away in Raqqa, trying to prove himself to the dark legacy of the father he never knew, with no road back.
Then Eamonn Lone 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 instrument of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined.
Home Fire is a nuanced, searing, and exceedingly timely novel about love and loyalty, ideology and identity, what we choose to sacrifice for and why. With uncanny insight, Kamila Shamsie reflects our world back at us, dramatizing the complicated humanity behind the headlines.
I received “Home Fire” in my July Reading in Heels Subscription Box and was keen to get started as soon as I could. After reading some very positive reviews I had high hopes, especially as author Kamila Shamsie is the recent winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.
Unfortunately it seems like I might be one of the only people not raving about this book. While I didn’t hate it but I really didn’t love it either.
Siblings Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz are British Muslims, growing up after losing both of their parents, navigating their way through the difficulties of multiculturalism, terrorism, prejudice and love. Each character is given their chance to shine through their own individual chapters, told from multiple points of view. Isma is 28 years old and has been given the opportunity to move to the US for a PhD, Aneeka and Parvaiz are 19 year old twins, growing up in Wembley. When Aneeka heads off to law school, Parvaiz is left to work out where he belongs in the world.
I certainly can understand the praise for this book. The topic it covers is so relevant in today’s political situation, raising moral issues and difficult topics that deserve a lot more coverage in literature.
“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.”
I liked the plot, but I didn’t like the way it was written. With long monologue-style paragraphs and very little to break the content up, I found that I couldn’t remember what I’d read in the morning by the time it came to my journey home. Sentences seemed to merge into one another and there were times where I felt that the topic changed completely and I didn’t understand how or why. At one point I remember not having a clue who the ‘he’ or ‘she’ being referred to was which meant I struggled to connect with anyone or anything going on.
I did enjoy Aneeka’s chapters towards the end, displayed in multimedia formats that were far more engaging than the other long, drawn out chapters. I wonder if I would have enjoyed the book more if everything was written in this style. I’m also wondering if I would have enjoyed this story more as an audio book to soften the style that I didn’t enjoy.
Overall rating: I wanted to like this book so much, but I just couldn’t. The plot and the message behind it was great and it’s certainly something that needs to be further covered in literature, but the characters fell flat and the writing style just couldn’t hold my attention so I found that this book really wasn’t for me – it’s 2 stars.