Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire is a beautiful and devastatingly touching recount of the trials and tribulations of a British Muslim family during a time when the British government is cracking down on terrorism and encouraging Muslims to blend in.
Siblings Isma, Aneeka, and Parvais have not had an easy life. Their father left them when they were young, and their mother died soon after. Isma has become a surrogate parent to her younger twin siblings, which both she and the twins resent.
The family dynamic begins to shift when Isma takes off to America for a graduate program. Aneeka is studying law and spending more time away from home. Parvais, working part time at a grocery store, is feeling left behind.
Parvais makes an irreversible decision, which sets into motion the dangerous actions that his twin sister takes to help him. All the while, the siblings are aware of and affected by the anti-traditional Muslim climate that has swept into Britain thanks to the work and rhetoric of Muslim-born British home secretary, Karamate Lone.
Shamsie takes you on a compelling journey through the lives and perspectives of each of the story’s pivotal characters to provide a well-rounded account of how even the well-intentioned can cause a ripple effect that can’t be stopped.
Please take caution when reading Home Fire if any of the following topics may trigger you:
I’m giving Home Fire four stars rather than five for two reasons: the writing style can cause confusion, which interrupts the flow of the story at times, and the beginning is a bit slow. It picks up quickly, however, and doesn’t slow down.
Otherwise, this novel is fantastic. The concept alone is extremely unique, compelling, and so important. I’ve vaguely heard of the issues that British-born Muslims have dealt with throughout the UK, but this novel dives right in to the politics of it all – it’s really fascinating. Shamsie tackles Muslim culture and identity in depth, as well as the ever-present dread (or allure, depending on who you ask) of terrorist societies.
I enjoyed the style of writing – sans the bits I found to be confusing – because it’s very unique. The writing is challenging in a good way and forces you to pay attention. Further, Shamsie’s spotlight on one character’s point of view at a time helps keep your focus on what’s important at any given point in the novel.
Home Fire is a novel that I probably never would have picked up of my own accord – I read it for a book club – but I’m so happy that I read it. It’s beautifully written, poignant, and poetically tragic. In fact, after finishing the novel, I learned that Shamsie based the story on Sophocles’s ancient Greek tragedy, Antigone.
Home Fire is thought-provoking, fascinating, and heart-wrenching. I highly recommend this novel if you’re looking for something more mature and out of your comfort zone.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Home Fire. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya.