Home Fire

Home Fire

The suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneek...

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Title:Home Fire
Author:Kamila Shamsie
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Home Fire Reviews

  • Hugh

    When the Booker longlist was announced, this was one of the books that most interested me, because I really enjoyed Shamsie's previous two novels (

    and

    ). I was a little nervous when I read that this is a modern retelling of Antigone, because my knowledge of the classics is very limited, but it is a fine book and another one which would make a worthy winner.

    The book is in five sections each of which focuses on a different character. I found the first slow going -

    When the Booker longlist was announced, this was one of the books that most interested me, because I really enjoyed Shamsie's previous two novels (

    and

    ). I was a little nervous when I read that this is a modern retelling of Antigone, because my knowledge of the classics is very limited, but it is a fine book and another one which would make a worthy winner.

    The book is in five sections each of which focuses on a different character. I found the first slow going - we are introduced to Isma as she travels from Britain to Massachusetts to pursue her academic career. Isma is an orphan who has been looking after her younger twin siblings (Aneeka and Parvaiz), and her father was a jihadi fighter in Chechnya and Afghanistan who only returned occasionally. She meets another Briton from a Pakistani family, Eamonn, who is the son of the home secretary (Karamat) and is in America on holiday. This section is primarily a scene setter - the real action starts when Eamonn returns to London and meets Aneeka. They embark on a clandestine affair.

    In the third part we learn more about Parvaiz. He is a drifter more interested in sound recording than working who is left at a loose end when Isma leaves for America and Aneeka starts a law degree. He gets entangled with, and radicalised by Farooq, who turns out to be a recruiter for IS and who persuades him to head for Syria, with the promises that he will find out more about his father and his death while being transported to Guantanamo, and that he will lead a privileged life in the media arm of the organisation.

    Things heat up when Parvaiz decides he wants to return to Britain, and the remainder of the book plays out the tragedy that ensues.

    I won't comment in detail about how this relates to the Sophocles play or the Anouilh version of the story - I will leave that to more expert critics. What I will say is that as a modern parable it works surprisingly well and becomes a very compulsive story. The Prime Minister and Chancellor are obviously modelled on Cameron and Osborne, so it is clear that Shamsie did not foresee the upheavals of the Brexit vote, but all of the other political content is chillingly plausible, and Shamsie paints a very nuanced picture of the difficulties faced by the Muslim community in dealing with their own extremists on one side and intolerance and misunderstanding on the other.

    Perhaps slightly flawed in places, but the best parts are very good indeed.

  • Adina

    4.5* rounded up.

    Home Fire is the candidate I support to win the Booker Prize. Well, I only read 4 nominees until now so it is not a definite opinion. However, it is highly unlikely that I will make too much of an advancement in my reading of the longlist until the shortlist is published so it will probably remain on top for a while.

    If you read a few reviews you will realize tha

    4.5* rounded up.

    Home Fire is the candidate I support to win the Booker Prize. Well, I only read 4 nominees until now so it is not a definite opinion. However, it is highly unlikely that I will make too much of an advancement in my reading of the longlist until the shortlist is published so it will probably remain on top for a while.

    If you read a few reviews you will realize that the novel is based on Antigone. Unfortunately, I cannot add anything on the subject as I have no knowledge of this classic story and I would feel like a fraud to comment on it after only reading the Wikipedia summary.

    The novel is divided in 5 sections, each focusing on the experience of one character. At its core, it is the story of a British family of Pakistani origin and their struggle to live in their adoptive country in the shadow of the terrorist threat, especially because of their troubled history.

    I did not ponder too much how it must be for a normal Muslim family abroad to live with all this suspicion from people and the government. This subject has an important role in the novel and it made understand how difficult it must be to make sure that you do everything right, that you do not provoke violence, always being afraid of being followed. It also discusses the difficulties a family faces when a member of the family proves to be jihadi. It also touches IS recruitment and other sensitive subjects that are very well done.

    I thought the beginning to be a bit shaky but please persevere. The writing gets much better after 30 pages or so. It becomes a powerful, emotional and important novel for our times.

    I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    ****

    4.5* An excellent book overall although there were some shaky parts. Made me think about a subject I did not pay too much attention: how to live in as a Muslim Citizen of an European country with the potential terrorist stigma. Review to come next week most liekely.

  • Elyse

    Update ... WINNER for the women’s prize of fiction for 2018!!!!!

    SHORT LISTED FOR THE WOMAN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

    LONG LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE

    WOW!!!!!

    Personal and political life merges together in the most heartbreaking of ways when a man loves a woman whose family is connected to a Muslim terrorist.

    The author explores justice, love, and passion in ways that can be compared to older classics - think Romeo and Juliet - yet set in modern time.

    Beautifully written - poetic - great character de

    Update ... WINNER for the women’s prize of fiction for 2018!!!!!

    SHORT LISTED FOR THE WOMAN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

    LONG LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE

    WOW!!!!!

    Personal and political life merges together in the most heartbreaking of ways when a man loves a woman whose family is connected to a Muslim terrorist.

    The author explores justice, love, and passion in ways that can be compared to older classics - think Romeo and Juliet - yet set in modern time.

    Beautifully written - poetic - great character development.

    It’s painful to read about two families pitted against each other...but it’s very insightful and informative- especially how the ISIS recruits - influences - and corrupts.

    Terrific Discussion Book!

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is a book that kept morphing as I read it and discussed it, and it ended up in a place far removed from my expectations at the beginning. Nowhere in the publisher summary or promotional material does it mention that the author is also basing this novel on the myth of Antigone, but she has, and that proves important in understanding some

    This is a book that kept morphing as I read it and discussed it, and it ended up in a place far removed from my expectations at the beginning. Nowhere in the publisher summary or promotional material does it mention that the author is also basing this novel on the myth of Antigone, but she has, and that proves important in understanding some of her choices.

    The author is from Pakistan, and the characters have some loose ties to Pakistan and end up there during some of the events, but it is more important inside the novel that the three central characters (siblings) are all children of a jihadi who was killed during or because of his military action. The characters themselves aren't certain, just know that he's gone, so I won't give that detail away. It's important to also understand that as a jihadi, he is working toward the magical homeland idea, and to that end has voluntarily fought in Afghanistan, Syria, Chechnya, and beyond. And the people he was involved with have done the same. Between that fact and the fact that the siblings are split between the USA and the UK, and the placeness of the novel feels very unstable.

    More instability in the novel comes from the shifting viewpoints and genres. The novel starts with Isma, the oldest sister as she moves to Amherst for school, including a long drawn out inquisition at the airport that makes her miss her flight. She meets Eamonn, son of a powerful politician in the UK, but his family is also close to her family in country and religion of origin, even if they don't seem to claim it anymore. At this point the novel feels like it is headed one specific direction, but there is a major shift to a romance novel for a while, and then it turns into a jihadist recruitment novel, and then a story about the placelessness of people labeled terrorists. Too much time, perhaps, is spent on what to do with a dead body without a country (this is a place where the author is trying to hard, in my opinion, to shoehorn the novel into the myth, when it is not needed, she has enough of a story without that.)

    As you can tell from my attempt to summarize, there is a lot going on in this novel. But I also found myself thinking far more deeply about the context. How far reaching are the wounds of Partition, which is where this family first lost their footing? How has that impacted the longterm inclination towards jihad? How do the way their family is treated in the USA and the UK effect how one member can only find home and family with a group of soldiers who knew his father? And outside this story, how is our current political situation worsening these kinds of narratives, pushing people into outsider status and otherness, without home, without firm footing? I think that's the thread that is between the lines, and to me, the most powerful part. I was waffling between three and four stars but I think my own thinking as a result of the novel pushes it to four.

    I do think there are misses here, though. The mythological connection weakens the story, especially the ending. Without saying what the ending is, I think it's a cop out to have a single climactic moment rather than following characters as they deal with the real-world, complex complications of the decisions that people have made. That's a movie move, not a novel move. There are missed opportunities between characters, conversations and interactions I expected them to have but are instead skipped, glossed over, or deemed not important. Isma and Aneeka should have had a huge fight about one plot element, and I felt like the connection between Isma and Eamonn's father had a lot of potential and it just dissipates.

    I would like to read more by this author, although I personally don't feel this is strong enough to make the Booker shortlist. Too many dropped plot points, a lack of realism at crucial moments, and the unevenness in genre and story arcs. I did appreciate the deep thinking it inspired, and it ended up having enough in it to count as one of the reads for my Borders 2017 challenge.

  • Diane S ☔

    There are so many timely subjects right now, world concerns and threats, and authors have responded in kind. This novel features two Muslim families in Britain, two families that have very different opinions on family and how to show or display their Muslim beliefs. It moves the themes in Sophocles, Antigone to present times. I remember very little about Antigone, refreshed my memory on Wiki, but I cannot really knowledgeably comment on the adequecy of the comparison.

    The novel starts out slowly

    There are so many timely subjects right now, world concerns and threats, and authors have responded in kind. This novel features two Muslim families in Britain, two families that have very different opinions on family and how to show or display their Muslim beliefs. It moves the themes in Sophocles, Antigone to present times. I remember very little about Antigone, refreshed my memory on Wiki, but I cannot really knowledgeably comment on the adequecy of the comparison.

    The novel starts out slowly paced, rather inoculously, as a young Muslim women, who has spent many years raising her two twin siblings. Now that they are old enough, Isma decides it is time to complete her interrupted education. The family!y of three has long been under the surveillance of the British Security service as their father was a known jihadist, who died on the way to Guantanamo.

    We learn about the methods used to recruit young people, usually 18 or 19, to the Islamic terrorist cause. The novel is narrated in alternating chapters by the five main characters. Each succeeding chapter is more intense, and by the time we hear from Aneeka, this story had radically changed, become super charged, very intense. The novel displays a confidence not only in prose but in how the story is related, which I found extremely effective.Complex issues. Love of family, youthful mistakes, how much can be forgiven. Government stances versus family, fear versus love, and the difficulties of Muslims, how they must act to fit in with society.

    Long listed for the Booker, I find tis a very worthy addition. Unforgettable, some of the visuals displaying a sister's love I don't think I will forget.

    ARC from edelweiss.

  • Larry H

    Ever since their mother and grandmother died within the period of a year, Isma has cared for her younger twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their well-being has always been her first concern, even if it meant sacrificing her own dreams and ambitions. But now that the twins have turned 18, Isma is finally putting herself first, accepting an invitation from a mentor to travel to America and co-author a paper with her.

    That doesn't mean Isma won't worry about her siblings—Aneeka, smart, beautiful, a

    Ever since their mother and grandmother died within the period of a year, Isma has cared for her younger twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their well-being has always been her first concern, even if it meant sacrificing her own dreams and ambitions. But now that the twins have turned 18, Isma is finally putting herself first, accepting an invitation from a mentor to travel to America and co-author a paper with her.

    That doesn't mean Isma won't worry about her siblings—Aneeka, smart, beautiful, and headstrong, is pursuing studies in law, while Parvaiz has left their London home to try and understand the legacy of their father, who was once a jihadist. Isma does what she believes is right, even as it causes a rift in her family, but she is bound and determined that her brother will not follow in her father's footsteps.

    "For girls, becoming women was inevitability; for boys, becoming men was ambition."

    When Eamonn, the son of a prominent British politician who has struggled with his own Muslim background in furthering his ambitions, enters the sisters' lives, he, too, causes a rift that he doesn't quite realize at first. Who is he to them? Is he a romantic possibility? A chance to enact revenge? The last hope for a wayward brother? The linchpin of a political crisis? Suddenly many lives hang in the balance, as true intentions are sought to be understood, and emotions are analyzed.

    What is stronger, blood or love? Can we ever overcome the obligations of family in order to move on with our lives, and if we can, should we? In

    , Kamila Shamsie attempts to answer those questions, as two families deal with the questions of love and loyalty, and how slippery the slope is when we start choosing enemies based on cultural generalizations.

    This is a powerful, timely book, and Shamsie does a good job navigating difficult political territory. For the most part, these are interesting characters, and I really became immersed in their stories. I felt, however, the book lost its way in telling Parvaiz's story, for while it was important to the plot, it just wasn't as interesting, and a lot was left unsaid. I also felt that Isma, who plays such a key role at the start of the book, is given short shrift, yet she is fascinating, evidenced by an all-too-short encounter with the politician which seemed like it could have developed into more.

    Shamsie is a talented writer, and this book is definitely a thought-provoking one about the ties of family and the immigrant experience. While it didn't resonate for me as much as, say,

    , it's still a powerful read.

    See all of my reviews at

    .

  • Dem

    This is another one of those books upon finishing I cant help regretting I hadn't read this as part of a group read just for the discussion factor as there is so much to discuss.

    The Novel has a very powerful opening wih Isma a Muslin woman struggling to be admitte

    This is another one of those books upon finishing I cant help regretting I hadn't read this as part of a group read just for the discussion factor as there is so much to discuss.

    The Novel has a very powerful opening wih Isma a Muslin woman struggling to be admitted to the US on a student visa and her long delay in the interrogation room results in her missing her flight. Isma, Aneeka and Pavaiz have had nothing but each other for a long time, Their father's past rears it's ugly head and Parvaiz gets drawn into a world that nightmares are made of.

    I loved the structure of this novel as it tells each character's story from his or her point of view in separate chapters. This is a brave novel and certainly makes you think, its well written and the characters are believable and interesting. This is the sort of book that can be read in a couple of sittings and I think would work well for bookclubs.

    I look forward to checking out more books by this author.

  • Hannah Greendale

    to watch a video review of this book on my channel,

    .

  • Maxwell

    I don't give 1-star reviews very often because I feel like I don't read a lot of books I would label as 'bad.' And this book, even, isn't 'bad' in my eyes. But when I think about things I enjoyed regarding this novel, there's pretty much nothing redeemable for me. The characters were flat, the plot was paper thin (even though I know it's a modern retelling of

    , I don't feel like that knowledge did anything to elevate the story), and the writing was nothing special and verged on poor at t

    I don't give 1-star reviews very often because I feel like I don't read a lot of books I would label as 'bad.' And this book, even, isn't 'bad' in my eyes. But when I think about things I enjoyed regarding this novel, there's pretty much nothing redeemable for me. The characters were flat, the plot was paper thin (even though I know it's a modern retelling of

    , I don't feel like that knowledge did anything to elevate the story), and the writing was nothing special and verged on poor at times. I know others who loved this book but, boy, I did not. In fact for the first time in a long time I couldn't wait to finish it. And that never really is a fun reading experience. If it had been any longer I would've DNF'd it. But I was more determined to push through since I am attempting to read all of this year's Man Booker longlist. Wouldn't necessarily recommend this but read some other reviews and see what people had to say that liked it, because it might be just the right book for you. It wasn't for me.

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