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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Home Fires (2017) by Kamila Shamsie

Book Review
Home Fires (2017)
 by Kamila Shamsie

   If I have a regret about this project, it's that my living circumstances over the past half decade haven't allowed me to BUY many of the books I've read.  If being an audience member is an aesthetic act, the primary action available to the conscious reader is to BUY the books involved.  Instead, I've checked out over 90% of them from the library.   During that time I've sold a house in San Diego, rented a condo, occupied an apartment in Los Angeles with my boo, moved with her to a house in another part of Los Angeles, moved out of the condo in San Diego and now, finally, purchased a home in Los Angeles (Atwater village, come and say hi!)  I've been careful not to accumulate possessions this entire time- basically since 2013 or so.  Thus, while I've been reading plenty, I haven't been supporting the authors.  That's less important for the older titles, but now that I am firmly in the world of contemporary fiction, I believe that participating as an aesthetic audience member requires BUYING not checking out, the books involved.

   Home Fires is the recent novel by Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie.  It was longlisted for the Booker Prize last year, and I selected it because the perspective of a FEMALE author from South Asia is one that I am interested in exploring.  Home Fires is Shamsie's take on Antigone, the ancient Greek play by Sophocles.  In Antigone, a teenage girl is forced to choose between obeying the laws of her Kingdom and her religion when her brother betrays his King and is ordered to be left unburied, a grave violation of Greek religious law.

  This scenario is transported to the present day, where a pair of adult sisters is forced to deal with the choice of the twin of the younger brother to become a jihadi, serving in the Islamic state media division.   The older sister, Isma, leaves London for Cambridge to pursue her PHD in sociology. While there she meets Eamonn, the only son of a Pakistani-English politician with a reputation for calling out his own people. Eamonn forms a connection with Isma, but he returns to England and promptly falls for Aneeka, the younger sister of Isma and twin of jihadi Pervaiz.  Shamsie switches between perspectives, including Eamonn's politician father in the mix.

  As tension builds, the reader is thrust into the perspective of English citizens of Pakistani decent, who feel crushed between the pressures of English disapproval,  Muslim comraderie and their own desires and ambitions. 

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