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The short list for the Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced last month and none of the books I had already read made the cut!  So I am going to try to read the finalists before the winner is announced at the beginning of June.  I read When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy last week and reviewed it in my April Wrap Up blog post.  This review is about Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, the second book from the short list for me.

Printed by Bloomsbury in 2017 in paperback.

Blurb on the back –

“How can love survive betrayal?  For as long as they can remember, siblings Isma, Anneka and Parvaiz have had nothing but each other.  But darker, stronger forces will divide Parvaiz from his sisters and drive him to the other side of the world, as he sets out to fulfil the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew”

Review:-  I finished this last night (when writing) and have to say that I am choked that it is over.  This was SUCH a good book.  Every time I put it down yesterday to do something like make a cup or tea or play candy crush I just wanted to pick it up again and find out what was happening next.  This is so well written, so beautifully crafted, the characters are so real and yet the subject is so very difficult, in todays climate.

The story is about about British Muslims living in London.  Isma is the oldest of the siblings with twins Anneka and Parvaiz being about 6 years younger.  Isma briefly met her father when he returned to the family for a short time and impregnated his wife with the twins.  The twins never met him.  He left the family to do the right thing, as he saw it, fighting in Bosnia in the 90’s.  Ultimately he died on the way to Guantanamo and is considered a terrorist.  The family grew up hiding from his name, when asked who he was ignoring the question or saying they didn’t know.  They fought to be safe in Britain by blocking him out.  When the twins were still quite young their mother died, probably from the stress of it all, and it was down to the older Isma to raise them, they became her children and yet the bond between the twins was stronger, unbreakable.

The story is told from each siblings perspective with added inputs from Eamonn, the son of Karamat and Karamat himself.  Karamat is a British Muslim who is now Home Secretary and has controversial views about what British Muslims should do to fit in to British Society.  Eamonn, his son with an American, was not brought up Muslim and lives a very sheltered and well to do life.

All five lives become entwined with each other to tell the story about the effects that Parvaiz leaving for Raqqa has on everyone around him.

It is really difficult to say much more without spoiling the progress of the book and I enjoyed it so much that I really don’t want to do that for you.  But let me please highly recommend this book.  It was enlightening and reminds you that everyone is human, even some of the bad guys!  It reminds you that your perspective on life isn’t everyone’s.  An incident in the book where the Home Secretary gives a much supported speech about British Muslims learning to integrate into Britain by removing their Hijabs saw Aneeka spat at on the train and told to go home.  What ripples one stone thrown in the pond can cause even if not anticipated or intended.

I thought this book was beyond excellent.  I savoured every word which is not like me at all!  I skim read a lot of books when words seem like fillers.  Every word in this book felt like it needed to be read, like it was carefully thought out.  I genuinely can not believe that this book lost out on the Costa prize to Eleanor Oliphant but am not surprised to read that many newspapers named it their book of the year, including The New York Times.