Love in the face of ISIS. Home Fire, shortlisted for this year’s Women's Prize, is the thought-provoking story of two young lovers torn apart by their divided loyalties to the state, their faith and family. In this modern retelling of Antigone, author Kamila Shamsie swaps Greek mythology for the lives of five British muslims in this powerful yet troubling tale.
But for all of the angst Shamsie evokes - the novel is set against the backdrop of young British men and women joining Islamic State as soldiers and jihadi brides - Home Fire is surprisingly readable and fast-paced. The weight of the story’s message is balanced by Shamsie’s swift style of writing and ability to create beautiful, intimate moments between her characters. You’ll find yourself turning down the corner of pages to savour her words again and again.
Set predominantly in London, between Wembley’s muslim community and the pomp and privilege of Westminster, Home Fire considers the terrible choice made by those who make the journey to Syria and the government’s uncompromising response. The beating heart of the novel, Aneeka - who just as readily expresses her sexuality as she does her decision to wear a hijab - finds herself at the centre of this ideological conflict. Caught between her twin brother (a fresh ISIS recruit) and her lover (the son of the Home Secretary) the story painfully unravels as her priorities emerge.
While anti-terrorism policy and romance don’t seem likely bedfellows, the framework of Greek tragedy makes the plot irresistible. A love story about politics, Home Fire explores the implications of fundamentalism and statelessness for vulnerable adolescents, their families and ultimately, British society. Shamsie will have you hooked until the very final page, before breaking your heart. A definite contender for this year’s Women's Prize, Home Fire is a new British classic.
A big thank you to Bloomsbury, who were kind enough to send us a selection of novels from the Women's Prize long list. We'll be reviewing these amazing books over the coming weeks.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. Published by Bloomsbury, 2018.