Tag Archives: Kamila Shamsie

‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie

“The ones we love…are enemies of the state.” Sophocles

A contemporary re-imagining of Sophocles’ Antigone (which I was unfamiliar with until I wiki-ed it), deals with clashes between family, society, and religious faith. It is a tragic tale of two very different Muslim families in Britain, in an age of terror.

This year’s winner of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, it was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2017. Most Bailey’s selections are readable, but this one was also suspenseful to the end and had an epic feel, despite its relatively short length. The author looks at love and loyalty with the backdrop of today’s immigration issues and ‘home-grown’ terrorism. It’s so easy to paint people from other religions and cultures with the same brush, but there is of course such considerable difference and nuance in each person’s story.

“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.”

Each of the main characters in this story gets their turn to be the narrator which is a style that really works well for this type of novel. After all, seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint is the most crucial element in empathy and understanding. I like how one reviewer described this book, as “…a novel that poses weighty questions about British politics and society through their impact on the most elemental levels of the state: the family and the human heart.”