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Minaret

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  1,024 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Leila Aboulela's American debut is a provocative, timely, and engaging novel about a young Muslim woman -- once privileged and secular in her native land and now impoverished in London -- gradually embracing her orthodox faith. With her Muslim hijab and down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twe...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 19th 2005 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published June 6th 2005)
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Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-FattahThe Complete Persepolis by Marjane SatrapiReading Lolita in Tehran by Azar NafisiInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi AliTen Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Best Books by Muslim Women
10th out of 93 books — 129 voters
Minaret by Leila AboulelaMayada, Daughter of Iraq by Jean SassonThe Face Behind The Veil by Donna Gehrke-WhiteUnveiling Islam by Ergun Mehmet CanerThe Good Daughter by Jasmin Darznik
Orientalist cover art
1st out of 25 books — 15 voters


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Community Reviews

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Paul
This is a simple and clearly written story which takes a different look at the tensions within Islam, between men and women and life as an immigrant. Najwa is born into a high-ranking family in Sudan; she is a Muslim, but a secular one which consists mostly of good works. Her father is a business man who is closely connected to the regime. Najwa is studying to go to university and her life is westernised and privileged. She meets Anwar, also studying, but he is radical and left wing. He teases h...more
Mark
Like "Brick Lane," this book allows us an intimate glimpse inside the life of an expatriate Muslim woman in London. But this heroine knew a life of extreme privilege when she was younger, until her family is shattered by a coup that overthrows her father and their security. Now she does servant work of the kind she used to have others do for her. And as her life evolves, she moves toward the faith that she has always been a part of but has never embraced. This is a beautiful, gentle book that ra...more
Bilqis
I accidentally found this book in my college library amongst all the famous writers hiding away.
the cover of the book appealed to me so I took it home. It was about two years ago and that was when my reading career began. was not much of a reader before.

Now all I can remember is that I cried through it and didn't quite understand the ending. But this book always lingered on in my mind.
After two years things changed, a lot of things happened, at that point I remembered what I read in this book,...more
Abdullah

رواية جميلة جداً للكاتبة السودانية القديرة ليلى أبو العلا بترجمة قديرة أيضاً لا يعيبها سوى العشرات من الأخطاء المطبعية - بدون مبالغة - . الرواية تتنقل بين الماضي و الحاضر في حرفنة تستحق الإشادة لابنة من علية القوم تعيش في السودان ببذخ حتى يحدث الانقلاب الذي يرمي بوالدها إلى العالم الآخر و يرمي بهم دون شفقة إلى الغربة . هناك سيحلو للزمن أن يتباهي بقدرته بعزيز القوم . سيقطف رؤوساً و يمهل أخرى قليلاً من الوقت حتى يقطفها في انقلاب آخر . و في هذا الوقت لن يعرف السودان الراحة كما لن يعرفها الناس . و ل...more
Astari Masitha
I was caught by mother for reading ronggeng dukuh paruk which was a book she didn't agree that I had to keep on reading. So she suggested Minaret which she said was more appropriate.

I'll say something straight about Najwa, A.K.A. the main character in this book. I have to admit she is a tough teenager. The misery she felt, from the death of her father, followed by her mother, and his brother in jail, didn't make a single doubt in her heart to go back to the path she believed, was right.

After h...more
Darcy
My knowledge of Sudan, the Muslim religion, and those exiled to England after the political upheaval of the 80s is minimal, so I was intrigued by many of the issues in this novel. Overall, it was just a so-so read for me though.

Najwa’s journey to spiritual fulfillment was the most satisfying part of this novel. Her voice was intimate and easy to identify with. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she chose to take what is considered a more conservative and prudish path in life. I think the a...more
PSmith
the story of Najwa, a girl born to affluent and politically ambitious parents in Sudan, whose life started degrading when her father was accused of treachery and corruption (which he possibly did) when the old regime fell to the new in the nineties. She had to flee to London as asylum seeker along with her mother and twin brother, and none of them recovered, either mentally or monetarily. The book goes on to describe how she faced her hardships and how she evolved into a strong person towards th...more
Sarah Lameche
I found this book a quick easy read. The story could've been great but for me it had no substance. Basically she was rich then she wasn't. She wasn't a practising Muslim, then she was. This book for me really isn't for adults. Teenagers yes. To be honest it just didn't have any oomph. 'SPOILER ALERT'. I didn't even care when her father or mother died. I'm not even sure that I cared too much for her either.
It didn't my emotions going and I felt I was reading it just for the sake of it. Sorry I c...more
طَيْف
"إنني، أحوم حول نفسي، أعجز عن التقدم، أنكفئ، ماض مشطوب، تمتمة"

أحببت الرواية وكان لقراءتها وقع خاص خلال رحلتي بالطائرة...فليلى أبو العلا...سودانية في بلاد المهجر...تكتب عن نجوى المهاجرة إلى بريطانيا في ظل ظروف سياسية تعرضت خلالها لتغييرات جذرية في حياتها

"لقد جارت علي الأيام، وانزلقت إلى مكان سقفه منخفض، لا يسمح بكثير حركة"

من عائلة ثرية مستقرة في الخرطوم إلى وحدة وحاجة في بريطانيا...واستطاعت أن تنجو...ربما بالوصفة الناجعة التي افترضتها ليلى في روايتها...مع أن أسباب النجاة كثيرة...ولكن للكاتبة رؤية
...more
Kasey Jueds
I started out feeling lukewarm about this book... wanting to keep reading because the setting (Sudan) and context were so new and compelling to me, but otherwise not really entranced. Then (I'm not sure when exactly--maybe about a third of the way through?) I started to love the main character, Najwa, and didn't want to put the book down. Maybe this didn't happen for a while because Najwa isn't really that likeable in the beginning; she's actually pretty shallow. But then her life changes drasti...more
Kay
I found this to be an excellent novel, and was a little upset that my local bookshop had filed it under something peculiar like 'black fiction'. This is a good story because it's a good story - that it illuminates an area of life many of us in the West find mysterious shouldn't lead to it being relegated to the 'minority interest' part of the book world.

Aboulela has written about what makes a rather superficial young woman become a devout older one, and how her religious beliefs shape her conduc...more
Siria
I found Aboulela's description of life as a Sudanese woman struggling to make a living in London to be interesting, but Minaret was largely a morality tale. There was a hint of ambiguity in the ending which signalled that perhaps Najwa's conversion was not the only thing needed to bring her contentment, but overall this was a book in which the devout were the good guys and the atheists, or even the Muslim women who didn't want to veil, were shallow and venal. It was far too two-dimensional in it...more
Ishta Nandi
Leila Aboulela writes like some people flirt! A balance between revealing things yet holding out at the same time to lead you on. It works; I was captivated by her tale of loss, and eternal returns. Of letting go so you can hold on. Of drawing karmic circles in an otherwise arbitrary game of musical chairs. In the end you realize she wasn't really holding out to tease you - she told you all she knew; about being Sudanese, about losing yourself in London, in a man, how a spoiled young girl become...more
Jessica
The back cover promises that this book is " a stunning and insightful novel about one woman's journey toward spiritual peace." Whoever wrote that, though, was a lil bit crazy. Yes, this book does follow one woman's conversion from a secular, Westernized Muslim to a more conservative one - and gives that story a terrific twist because the secular lifestyle was in Sudan and the more conservative developments occur in bustling London. But there's precious little peace to be had here - the final sce...more
Zainab.bakry
I love real books that deal with real people going through real life situations, and this is one of them.

Through Najwa, I have experienced life in Sudan in a way I haven't before- even though I myself am Sudanese and have lived in Sudan for 6 years.

What I love about the book is how it deals with the idea of escapism; passing through life without actually living it. Each one of us uses some mean of escaping during situations we feel we cannot handle. And in one form or another, all of the charac...more
Juthi Dewan
SPOILER ALERT!!!

This story is probably my favorite tragic love story. It's realistic and it tells about how life can change real quick, in the blink of an eye. The way, Najwa's life changes. From being a rich, spoilt daughter of a politician to being a maid. How she has to stand on her own two feet, enduring the hardships of her family life. Her brother's addiction, her mother's sickness, letting go of the person she loves, by pretending to not love him when she did.

It also says a lot about Isl...more
Julianne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angelo Vassallo
Tooking this book, I was wondering if it will be one of the 1000 books which describes the women poor condition in the arabic world, but already from the first pages I realised that it was something different. It is a story of a woman and the story is interesting not because she is muslim, but it is interesting for what she has to tell us, for what she lives, for what she feels, for her daily life, which has nothing to do with being or not muslim. If you are looking for a book about the conditio...more
Chris
Minaret is an easy reading, if disappointing, story. Najwa was born into a wealthy, well connected Sudanese family, but is forced to flee with her mother and brother into exile after a political coup. As time drags on, Najwa makes the transition from wealthy, carefree teenager to middle-aged, religious housekeeper. This could have been a fascinating story, but Leila Aboulela’s tale wanders about, never really making a point, and resorts to cheap tricks to keep readers interested. The overarching...more
Sharmila
I LOVED THIS BOOK, ONE OF MY FAVOURITES!!
This book is written beautifully and I cannot say there is anything I don't like about it. I can easily relate to her about faith being important part in life.It looks into the mind of a faithful muslim women, who is true to herself. 5*
Fida
Jul 24, 2013 Fida added it
The novel greatly depicts the protagonist's life in wealth and her life and after loosing all of her wealth. It defines the real meaning of happiness and peace that can be summoned up by approaching Allah's path and seeking His satisfactory. Very recommended!
Jessica
An earlier novel than Aboulela's The Translator and more autobiographical (I presume). Not as accomplished, but still, very good & worth reading.
Yati Daud
Easy and nice book to read. Najwa's odyssey of loss and found faith is written beautifully.
Ian
The narrator is the daughter of a well-to-do Sudanese businessman – or rather, he was well-to-do. He prospered under the country’s old regime, and he and his family were almost aristocracy. But when that government was overthrown, he was arrested and executed as a symbol of its corruption. So now the narrator, Najwa, is in London, and working as a nanny since all the family’s riches (justly earned or not) have been seized. The woman she works for is a young Arab who grew up in the Gulf states,...more
Raagheel
I would certainly have to say that this book found me, I went to a local book store and almost left without anything I found interesting or worth reading that would be of value to leave with.Instead, I walked out with a copy of Leila Aboulela's "Minaret". 'It rings with true tenderness and truth', A novel of 'unusual generosity, honesty and compassion',I loved the way the book provokes your thoughts and probes thinking whether as reader's or as individuals who just as Najwa travels along life in...more
Amira
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Renee
Another in the Islam-in-various-cultures genre is Minaret, by Leila Aboulela , which we also read for B/C. It’s about a well-off Sudanese woman who immigrates with her family to Great Britain after a change in government involves the execution of her father. This young woman is university educated, speaks fluent English and is very capable, has a mom and relatives who are also educated, and very liberal by Moslem standards, but…that’s really where the story begins. I really enjoyed this book and...more
R.
While I have many criticisms of this book, something about it really drew me into the story and even a few weeks after reading it I still find myself thinking about it. The book follows the story of an upper-class and fairly Western Sudanese woman who moves to London and ends up working-class and drawn towards the Muslim religion she spurned in her native land. Her story of slowly finding meaning in Islam is engaging and my first real understanding of how someone could become so religiously cons...more
Sarah
I really enjoyed her writing, but it didn't seem to be building to anything. The narrator changed, to be sure, but it was so hidden in the switching of time periods and the lines of the story as to be almost missed.

I did find it thought-provoking, though, which is always good. Her longing to know what it's like to have a country that is stable, to be able to make plans and live your life regardless of what is going on in your government. I know that I often feel like everything hinges on an elec...more
Phyllis
There's something about this book that brings to mind Karl Marx. "Religion is the opiate of the masses/people." And that is certainly the feeling I got as the protagonist of the novel clings ever more closely to her religion as her economic/social life begins a drift downward. Once a child of privilege, she becomes an exile in London working as a maid.

I don't think the author of this novel meant us to feel sorry for the young woman, Najwa. I think we are supposed to feel that Najwa has made a ch...more
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Leila Aboulela grew up in Khartoum, Sudan where she attended the Khartoum American School and Sister School. She graduated from Khartoum University in 1985 with a degree in Economics and was awarded her Masters degree in statistics from the London School of Economics. She lived for many years in Aberdeen where she wrote most of her works while looking after her family; she currently lives and lect...more
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“All through life there were distinctions - toilets for men, toilets for women; clothes for men, clothes for women - then, at the end, the graves are identical.” 17 likes
“The Mercy of Allah is an Ocean, Our sins are a lump of clay clenched between the beak of a pigeon. The pigeon is perched on the branch of a tree at the edge of that ocean.It only has to open it's beak” 13 likes
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