Julie Christine's Reviews > Home Fire

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
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Fate versus Free Will. Law and Justice versus Divinity and Destiny. Power. Femininity. Grief. In her seventh novel, British-Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie takes on the themes of giants, loosely holding the Greek tragedy of Antigone as her inspiration, and tells a modern tale of terrorism, politics and love. Her ambitions garnered her the 2017 Women's Prize for Fiction, as well as placements on the longlist for the 2017 Man Booker prize and shortlist for the Costa novel award. It is a triumph that a woman writer, a writer of color, is lauded critically as well as rewarded with public acclaim for writing a political novel.

Home Fire considers how a homegrown terrorist is created. In this case, Parvaiz Pasha, a young man in the London suburbs is wooed carefully by an ISIS recruiter who eventually lures him Syria. This is a double tragedy for the Pasha family: Parvaiz's father was a jihadist who died years earlier, en route to Guatanamo Bay prison. The shame of his legacy hangs heavily on the Pasha family and is responsible for his wife's early death. Parvaiz and his twin sister Aneeka were toddlers at the time and barely remember their father - his disgrace leaves the son adrift and the daughter determined and defiant. And pious. She alone holds onto their Muslim faith.

At the start of the story Isma Pasha, the eldest daughter, leaves Britain to pursue her graduate studies in the United States. The twins are now nineteen and the pragmatic older sister feels she is finally free from the burden of mother and provider. Her relief at leaving this complicated family dynamic behind is palpable. But the novel's opening scene, which shows Isma at Heathrow, detained and questioned simply because of her Pakistani heritage, is a chilling reminder that escape is not so easy.

Chance encounters by Isma and Aneeka with trust-fund fed Eamonn Lone introduce a romantic and political entanglements. Eamonn is the son of the conservative Home Secretary, a Pakistani-born Londoner who has carefully crafted his political career, aligning himself with traditional British values and eschewing identity politics. The Home Secretary is responsible for immigration and security policy and this particular politician, Karamat Lone, emphasizes complete assimilation -distancing himself from his Muslim heritage. Eamonn, whose mother is an Irish-American business tycoon, has never had to question his place- culturally, politically- in society. His privilege has been granted without hesitation. Until he falls in love.

Like the Greek tragedy that serves as its inspiration, Home Fire is epic, fatalistic, and breathtaking. Shamsie's story is engrossing, her intelligent and beautiful writing so readable. The political thriller/romance spin serve to make this novel accessible, even while its stylistic and psychological choices push it into deep literary fiction.

And the ending. Oh, that ending. One I will never forget - powerful, devastating, inevitable.
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Reading Progress

October 13, 2018 – Shelved
October 13, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
December 7, 2018 – Started Reading
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: best-of-2018
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: british-isles-theme-setting
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: middle-east-theme-setting
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: read-2018
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: war-conflict
December 10, 2018 – Finished Reading

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