Home Fire By Kamila Shamsie- A Man Booker Longlist

“Contempt, disdain, scorn: these emotions were stops along a closed loop that originated and terminated in a sense of superiority.” 
― Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire

The complex web of thoughts is often so difficult to untangle. When mixed with religious, political and radical thinking, it becomes nothing but a fatal concoction. Home fire by Kamila Shamsie is one such web, with politics and religion being pitted against a family’s love and relationship. The book is supposedly a modern take on the Greek tragedy Antigone. I haven’t read Antigone, hence wouldn’t be able to comment or compare the two. To me, Home Fire is a fresh perspective on human emotions, relationships and radical thinking.

Book Peep

Having lost their mother and grandmother at a young age, Isma the eldest of the three siblings takes over the reins of her home. Her siblings, the twins Aneeka and Parvaiz, become her responsibility and her first concern at the cost of her own dreams and ambitions. Growing up in London, the three also carry a shameless legacy- that of a Jihadist father. He has been dead since long, yet the tag associated with him haunt the three from all angles, despite their attempts to bury it deep within. As the twins turn 18 and begin to live life on their own, Isma finally departs to build her dream and travels to America. Away from her siblings, yet her thoughts still centre on them. The head strong Aneeka joins university to pursue law. Parvaiz, on the other hand, embarks on his own journey to understand the legacy of their father. He takes the road to Syria, trains and joins the Islamic State in its war. Parvaiz disappears in this pursuit. However he does resurface. When he does, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.

Amidst all this turmoil, enter into their lives Eamon, the son of a powerful and prominent British politician. Eamonn has his own struggles-his ambitions, his Islamic background and his father’s political position. What draws Aneeka and Isma to Eamonn? Is it love, attraction or opportunism? When their lives get entangled what ensues is an emotional battle. The fates of two families get intricately woven together and as Kamila Shamsie herself asks, “What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?”

Deeper into the book

Impact of terrorism on relationships; and this is exactly what the book attempts to speak about. Kamila Shamsie lays the foundation of the book on current events and touches upon a varied set of topics such as extremism, radicalism, xenophobia and racism. The beauty of the book lies in addressing these issues, amidst the relationship entangles. Divided into five sections, the plot is spread out with with each character presenting their point of view. 

The book starts on a flaky note, but have patience and after a little over the first hundred pages the story peaks. In fact, Shamsie surpasses most other contemporary fictions with her fairly descriptive narrative through the remaining pages. I loved the way the conclusion has been played. It seemed to be a perfect summation of the thoughts she wished to communicate, putting me into an introspective mode. Decently played characters, though I would have preferred a more elaborate narrative of Parvaiz, considering he plays quite a crucial role.

In its own unhurried pace, the book focuses on contemporary issues at hand and the difficulties faced when a member of a family is proven to be a jihadist. This makes Home Fire no easy read. It is complex, with multiple loops that twine together in the plot. The book won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for 2018 and was long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2017. If that’s reason enough, then it’s surely is worth your time.

Not your usual run-of-the-mill fiction; Home Fire falls under the category of intense reading.

Home Fire

The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

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