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Home Fire

Home Fire

This book by Kamila Shamsie was a challenging read.  The book is about two Muslim families whose lives become entwined with devastating consequences.

Isma and her twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz, live in Wembley in the family home.   Their father had abandoned his family to become a jihadi only returning  briefly when Isma was eight.  He was involved in conflicts in the Balkans, Chechnya and Afghanistan, finally being captured and imprisoned in Bagram.   He died aboard a plane bound for Guatanamo Bay.  Their mother died when the twins were still young and Isma had taken on her role as their carer helped by an aunt.

The twins are now eighteen and Isma has secured a place to study for a PhD in America.  Aneeka is studying law in London, while Parvaiz works in a greengrocer's shop and helps out at the local library.

Parvaiz is befriended by Farooq who encourages him to talk about his father and convinces him that the only way to discover the truth is to join ISIS and fight for their cause.

Karamat Lone is also of Pakistan descent.  He is the Home Secretary in a right wing British Government and lives with his family in Notting Hill.  Eamonn, his son meets Isma in America and they become friends.  When he returns to the UK he visits her family and meets Aneeka.  They become lovers.  His father does not approve

The narrative raised lots of questions.  Did Aneeka really love Eamonn or was the relationship merely a means of reaching the Home Secretary?  Was Parvaiz an innocent victim who was radicalised not realising the enormity of what he was getting involved in?

It is a complex, well written, thought-provoking book and the characters are well drawn.  The author explores the clashes between family values and faith.  It made for uncomfortable reading but most of the group were glad they had read it.  It was an informative but not an enjoyable read.

Review by Anne Strang