Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie.

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

I was kindly sent this book as a giveaway prize by the lovely Rosie Talbot – Instagram @merrowchild – which I finished reading last month. I had very mixed feelings whilst reading Home Fire, but after having taken time to reflect upon it I can see why it has received so many outstanding reviews; it’s also a very deserving winner of this years Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The story follows a British Muslim family of siblings who have been struck by tragedy, in the sense of losing their mother and grandmother at young ages whilst also dealing with the looming legacy of their absent jihadi father.

Whilst I am a huge fan of novels which stray from the typical Bildungsroman structure, the switches between narrative in this book did not feel quite right. Through research around the book I have since discovered that the authors intention for the novel was a contemporary re imagining of Antigone, a Greek tragedy which consisted of five acts (akin to the five narratives).  Whilst I am not overly familiar with the tale I understand this echo in structure, and its importance in gaining a wider insight to the story.

I was however left disappointed each time the narrative perception shifted, I needed more access to each character’s thoughts. I felt that Isma in particular had more to offer, or could have been revisited as a character of importance. Perhaps that feeling speaks volumes for the intrigue that the novel held over me.

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The inclusion of difficult subject matter – such as ISIS recruitment tactics towards young Muslims living in Western societies, as well as the effects of terrorism upon the families of jihadists left behind – makes this novel a pivotal read for modern times.

These are topics relating to headlines which are rarely out of the news,  often making it difficult for many to process and humanize amidst all of the politics and fear mongering

Contempt, disdain, scorn: these emotions were stops along a closed loop that originated and terminated in a sense of superiority.

Other reviews that I have encountered have criticised the novel for its ‘slow’ beginning. Personally I found those opening scenes of Isma’s interrogation to be the first thing which opened my eyes to this novels contemporary value. In other words, it got me thinking and drew me in.

It’s unsettling to consider that ordinary people face the concern of being unable to board a flight without intense scrutiny or interrogation, or having to carefully consider each and every internet search, as though that simple act in itself is a cross-examination of one’s character. It’s a hard realisation, but one that this novel is striving to make people aware of.

The story continually gathers pace throughout, its intensity somewhat striking by the end. It’s certainly difficult to put down, making it one of those novels that you could easily find yourself glued to the chair all night with, unaware of the early morning light seeping through the curtains.

I would recommend it to anyone as a quick and easy read with a strong impact. Home Fire does not require any overly pedantic analysis, it is bold and to the point with its purpose and has an extremely tragic tale at its roots.

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Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury Circus: London, 2017).

University hangover.

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University is a bubble. It’s constant deadlines, looming reading lists, nights out – so many nights out – and living on top of from some of your closest friends. Then all of a sudden it’s over. Those three or four years really do blast by; then you’re thrown into the world of adulthood with the aspirations of a career that you may not even be sure you want to attain.

I never expected to walk out of university into a job that I loved (thankfully I’m not currently trapped in one that I hate), especially considering I had only really worked out during my final year of study what it is that I actually want to do. Even these goals are still a little shaky, after all, a career in publishing is not easy to come by.

I loved every moment of university – bar the lingering pressure of debt, a rapidly depleting overdraft and perhaps also a questionable choice in housemates. Having a new city to live in and explore was one of my favourite things about the experience, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with Sheffield.

I was lucky enough to truly enjoy my course and received such an invaluable education from some amazing lecturers. I had initially applied to study journalism however I was rejected from the course, which I think was a blessing in disguise. In hindsight I know that I wouldn’t have had the same passion for it. Although it might have opened up more career opportunities fresh from graduating, who knows.

Whenever I tell people that I studied English Literature their response is usually “So you’re going to be a teacher then…” or “… an author!” These aren’t wild assumptions, but a degree in literature certainly does not qualify nor prepare you for either of those things. In reality, the majority of us simply want to remain hauled up in a library, methodically working our way through an endless list of astounding things to read and analyse. This process is what drew me to publishing. Whilst I don’t harbour the ability to draft fiction, I want to be somehow involved in the process of bringing it to life for others to devour.

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I am thankful that I now have a direction in which to hopefully throw myself. Thankful that when people ask me what it is that I want to do (the question that sends shivers down the spines of students and graduates alike), I can offer a little more than a shrug of the shoulders and glazed expression which translated to I really just want to read some more good books. 

I still just want to read some more good books, of course. And I’m no writer or teacher. But I do now envisage myself in the field of publishing. I want to communicate ideas; celebrate the good ones; possibly even offer suggestions to the bad.

Although the concept of having an idea sounds easier than having no ideas at all, the difficult part comes once you start to work toward something.

Currently, I feel lost. It isn’t necessarily a negative feeling, but merely an extension of adjustment.

I know that this feeling will be temporary, but right now it is all consuming. I miss my bubble.

I have considered, reconsidered and then abandoned the idea of blogging for a few years now. It wasn’t the feeling of having nothing to say which held me back, but the concern that nobody would read what I wrote. This doesn’t seem like a logical thought process when facing this already vastly populated digital realm. If somebody told me that they wanted to blog, my reaction would simply be ‘go for it…’ So here I am, doing just that. If you made it this far, thank you. Also, if you’ve followed me here from Bookstagram, hello again!