Home FireKamila Shamsie
Home Fire is a powerful reimagining of Sophocles' Antigone, a Greek tragedy about the daughter of Oedipus following her father's death. The novel moves the themes of Antigone into contemporary times, and features two Muslim families with very different perspectives on how to display their beliefs.
The novel introduces a young Muslim woman named Isma who has spent many years raising her two twin siblings, Parvais and Anneka, following the death of their mother and grandmother. The family of three has long been under the surveillance of the British security service as their father was a known jihadist. Now that her siblings are old enough to look after themselves, Isma decides to move to Massachusetts to complete her interrupted education.
The novel is narrated in alternating chapters by five main characters, and each succeeding chapter increases its intensity. By the time we hear from Aneeka, the story radically changes, becoming super charged when we learn that Anneka’s twin brother Parvaiz has disappeared to follow in his father’s footsteps.
The novel displays a confidence not only in prose but in how the story is related. Complex issues are explored, including familial love, youthful mistakes, and the power of forgiveness. It also delves into the extreme methods used to recruit young people to the Islamic terrorist cause.
There were some missed opportunities, including conversations and interactions between characters. However, I did appreciate the deep thinking it inspired, and I ended up in a place far removed from my expectations at the beginning. Home Fire has well-deservedly been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.