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3.55  ·  Rating details ·  2,411 ratings  ·  295 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
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 19th 2005 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published June 6th 2005)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,411 ratings  ·  295 reviews

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Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite
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,
Jul 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Review of Minaret By Leila Aboulela for ENGL 358

In modern society there seems to be this over-arching generalization that Islam is this incredibly oppressive religion for women. This is coupled with the large lack of female voices in arguing a counter-case of this generalization that has allowed this view to go fairly undiscussed. As Mahmudul Hasan writes, “Muslim women have often been portrayed as disempowered, oppressed and belittled by Muslim men, subservient to their husbands with no equa

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
Leslie Reese
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-authors
3.5 -4.0 stars. Up until about the last 50 pages this book was a 4.5 - 5 star book for me but then it seemed rushed with a slight sensational twist that didn’t fit well with the first part of the book. This is my second Leila Aboulela read and I look forward to reading Lyrics Alley. ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
I enjoyed this book very much and it was very easy to read! The writing is simple and straightforward yet rich at the same time - as it’s first person, you really get to know Najwa well and watch her grow. It flits between Khartoum, where Najwa and her family are rich, her father working in the government, and where they are, for the most part, non-practising Muslims.
But after a coup which results in her father’s execution, Najwa, her brother Omar and her mother are forced to seek asylum in Lon
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Astari Masitha

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 having experienced the western liberal life, she had the intentions of purifying herself and start over. Now that's a rare choice.
The dialogues between Najwa and Anwar, Najwa and Omar
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Minaret tells the story of Najwa, an upper-class Sudanese girl who lived an affluent life in Khartoum. However, following a coup and the arrest of her father on corruption charges, she and her family are forced to leave Sudan and end up settling in London. The story jumps between two timelines. The past that describes her life back in Khartoum where she lived confidently and comfortably, attended university and had the help of maids seeing to her every need. To her life in London where she now w ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Minaret follows the story of Najwa, from her privileged youth in Sudan to her impoverished exile in England, where her life and world view is transformed not just by her loss of status, but also her spiritual awakening as she seeks solace in a world which has been deprived of all meaning for her. The narrative frequently jumps back in time, which helps the reader steadily build a picture of her transformation from a confident, spoiled, rich Westernised young woman to somebody who has outlook on ...more
Minaret is a young woman's journey to find peace after undergoing a major life upheaval. Najwa, an upper class Muslim girl in Sudan is displaced to Britain after a political turmoil in her country. Alone and not affluent anymore, she becomes a maid to wealthy Muslim family to earn her keep.

Najwa seeks spirituality and finds it in religion. Minaret plays on distinct lack of presence of an idea to make the idea seem bolder and provocative. In Sudan, she is fairly westernized and when she lands in
Kasey Jueds
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
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
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I only set out to fulfil my quota of African lit to read this year and in exchange I got; carthasis, quiet rage and a schooling on Islam that was done in a way could be easily mistook for tepid -as the book itself-, except I found myself deeply overcome after the read.

Besides the easy diction, the book's pace - not fast, not slow -, I think, made it a page-turner. Easy and flowery and precise still.

Najwa (protagonist) might not be intelligent (She definitely could've made some less self-harmin
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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*
Ana Ovejero
A truthful account of the life of a Muslim woman and her way toards religion. She is Sudanese and you get to know her life before her actual days as a maid in London. The romantic side of the narrative is kept realistic, and that is what I really like about it.
Sinead Anja (Huntress of Diverse Books)
Check out my book blog for more book reviews and other bookish posts!

I had had Minaret on my Kindle for quite a while, but never really had the right opportunity to read it. So when I heard of Ramadan Readathon, I just knew that I had to include this book in my TBR. It follows the story of a upper-class Sudanese woman, who ends up living in poverty in London.

It’s #ownvoices for Muslim and Sudanese representation.


Najwa is an interesting character, and the people who meet her in the book don’t r
Stephanie Jane
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-africa
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I bought six books at the excellent Hope Association book fair back in May last year and Minaret is one of two that I hadn't got around to reading until now. I was attracted to the story by the Ali Smith quote on the front cover: "Minaret is a wonderful book ... readable, subtle and ambiguous, with a shocking clarity of voice" and by Aboulela being an #OwnVoices Muslim Sudanese author in London. It's depressingly uncommon to actually hear abo
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a stealth novel, with some lines of great writing slipped in, the kind of writing that could be flashy/too much if overdone.

Khartoum, Sudan — the names alone are evocative and sent me off to refresh my (very limited) knowledge of this part of the world.

Political unrest, a family in exile in London.. this book follows the experiences of a young woman, over time, who is happy with and confused by the freedoms of her life in London, and homesick for her old life. A slow but detailed novel
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
When a political coup happened in Sudan, Najwa and her family were forced into exile in London. She lost everything, her parents, her status.

The story is about Najwa and how she is forced to live a life different from what she imagined, from being the daughter of rich parents to being a maid in a new country, from being loved by her parents and twin brother, to being orphaned, alone, empty spaces.

The story is also about Najwa finding her way to Islam and falling in love with her employer’s son,
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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I preferred the beginning of this novel. The storyline towards the middle got a bit annoying. Najwa (the protagonist) falling in love with Tamer, her employer’s son was a bit strange to me. Why is this almost 40 year old in love with a 19 year old university student? I found Tamer way too judgmental as he thought he was a better muslim than others. Najwa was a little too naiive for my liking. Her fate was very sad, as she was orphaned quite ea
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Najwa comes from a privileged Sudanese family; her mother's family own land and businesses, while her father is a minister in Nimeiri's government. She and her twin brother are students at Khartoum University when the 1985 coup overthrows Nimeiri, her father is arrested and the rest of the family flee to London. This social and political background to the story is very well done, illuminating the state of the country while staying true to the characters. Najwa and her family are urban and Wester ...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
This is Leila Aboulela's first novel. I read it after reading her other more recent novels The Translator and her latest The Kindness of Enemies. It's interesting to note how much she has grown as an author. This is a good book, not as good as the other two but still well written and engaging. She possesses a talent to take you to the time and place of the characters without being overly wordy or descriptive. As in all her works, Abuleila excellently and accurately depicts the experience of bein ...more
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-happy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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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