‘Home Fire’ Review

Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie

I saw something in Mslexia about some furore over this novel and instantly thought, well, I have to read this then!

It’s a bit like Queenie – not quite what I expected from the reviews and blurb. (I should never read them! I always tell myself then forget as I’m turning over and anticipating a new spine to crack.) I find blurbs, especially of books other than lit-fic, are like most adverts – not very good. They’re not written, which I think most people don’t realise, by the author or even the agent, the ones who know and love the book the best, but by marketing people. It’s like those terrible perfume adverts where some silly cow dressed in heels and sparkles shoots a bow and arrow on horseback then ends up in some model’s arms. Could they not instead explain what’s in the fucking perfume?

Anyway, I digress. Queenie was like reading about myself in Britain growing up and making all the mistakes with shit men, shit jobs (or not shit, but not supportive shall we say), not having any self esteem, then depression…but for her, more shit cos she’s black. That world that I only see from a distance, because I don’t really know anyone black or of colour at all.

This is the same. Muslim life. I think I have more of a clue there having been to wonderful, warm Morocco, seen the Atlas mountains and the Atlantic sea, the souks, the palaces, museums, minarets…and the people who are so peaceful, calm, lovely, interesting, so different, wonderful swathes of clothes, jellabahs, the teeny food shops where you can buy evvvvverything, the butchers’ with massive penises hanging off the corner, the jewellery, the way the men look at you even haha, the noise of the azaan, which I must learn, I thought it was just Allahuah Akbar… Anyway to have that duality, in Britain – still so bad as portrayed? How can they dare to seearch a student, a woman, heading to the US like that? And the secrecy – never mention this, that, the other, never search for xyz. It is all true. Living in fear in your own country.

I could see this being made into a BBC Drama on One, for sure. In fact, in the end that’s what I didn’t like about it. It turned into an episode of a drama, racing ahead to the demise… I kind of wanted something quieter and more thoughtful; this started nuanced and studious, then turned all showy and over-the-top.

At the same time, I suppose it could happen. Although, would any country deliver a body to a park..? And why wasn’t Eamonn watched? And why did either of the women fall for him; he didn’t have half of their personalities. I also find it weird that Parvaiz, looking all scared and stuff, went to the British Embassy and they saw him a mile away and wondered what he wanted. What do you think? To blow you up? Or has he realised he made a reeeeeallly bad decision here? Oh, too late…

Unfortunately for me I preferred the earlier characters and sections, especially Isma, who we didn’t get to see much more of, and who was really shafted by the whole thing. Aneeka I just didn’t like – drama queen needing a reality check – or Karamat much; although his conflicts were interesting, he’d gone too far up his own arse. And was dull, basically.

It did make me think about issues like Shamina Begum, if I’ve got that right… The media has a lot to answer for. I can see through stuff like royals-bashing and Q-Anon shite, but when it’s to do with cultures and backgrounds I have little knowledge of, it’s not so easy. What would I do? I hope I’d be kind.

I’m not sure what the controversy was about. This should be read by anyone who has any racism in them, so most of us white Brits who don’t really know our own privilege. Well worth reading, but don’t read any other reviews or blurb on the book (when will I learn) before you get into it. Oh! Too late.

Update…

Lordy. No writings for some time!! Well, not on here, anyway.

I have actually had a really fun gig ghost-writing articles for a lovely guy on a great relationships site. I can’t claim it properly though!

NaNoWriMo was the usual flop for me…I had to get my ass moving on Surfergirl’s Seaglass’s website and business plan, and once you’re a few days behind on word count it all starts to look impossible, even locked down with no other fun to be had.

But it’s a real and definite goal to get writing my next novel, ‘Ffynon’ (Well) this year. At least a first draft is required!

Plenty of creativity on the silversmithing side of things, and I use the time at the bench to listen to podcasts on creative things and business advice. While I stay home in Wales, my mind wanders all over the world…

 

Free Fluff

“It’s a quick video about why you don’t need any special “skills” or “experience” to launch a full-time lifestyle business as an influencer…”

This influencer is peddling courses on how to make and sell courses – and telling people they don’t need any special knowledge to do that. What if you want to make a course about x but you don’t know any more than the next person? Who wants to be taught by someone who isn’t the best of the best at what they do? What if, like most people, you are not the best at anything, and really not qualified to instruct anyone on anything? What if you’re just out to make a quick buck off people, and you make shit courses?

Some of these internet influencer courses seem dangerous. You could pay a lot and really get not much back. I worry that most of these courses could have been written up into a great book, landed a publisher and been assigned an editor, gained reviews and so on. I worry that the ones that couldn’t get published like this are mostly the ones that are shite. I suppose it’s like indie publishing, self-publishing – there are some crappy books, and there are some good books. But with a Kindle title you might waste a few quid and then leave a review so others don’t do the same. With something like a freelancing one I’d like to do, you pay A LOT of money. I mean, like £800. And what if it’s rubbish? There’s a money-back guarantee, but what if it doesn’t work but you don’t find out till it’s too late? Or they quibble, or disappear? I just think there’s a lot of potential for bullshit like the above – bad advice from people who are well-meaning – and some who maybe aren’t. And there’s nowhere for honest reviews – their sites and social media are carefully curated shop windows, which is fair enough, but nowhere gives the downsides, the ‘didn’t work for me’ stories. Even the best books have some poor reviews, a balanced view.

Maybe this is me being too old to grasp the new paradigm…but there was an article about one influencer kid who is basically running a Ponzi type scheme, and it’s fucking with trading, which is real and serious money… People lose money, so they have to recruit new losers, and so on.

Anyway, I’ve unsubscribed from this particular brand of fluff. I still rate some influencers and online course creators really very highly – Renae Christine’s Cupcake Trainings, for example, which is ‘awesomesauce’ (free book image from Renae!). The quality of the free stuff tells me the paid-for would be awesome, totally worth it, but it’s just too expensive for me. Same for the freelancing course. One Of Many, which I also love, is more sensibly priced.

It’s fair play to those who are succeeding with this new way of connecting with people. But I’m going to steer clear of any more of the ‘free webinar with everything you need to know – then the hard sell at the end!’ type stuff. Some of it is bad, bad, bad. I’m quite susceptible to the marketing as well, and just ain’t got the dollar! Also…I just still really like books…and independent reviews…

I’m looking at ways to grow my writing and jewellery businesses, and turn it all into one lifestyle brand umbrella where I get to share everything I love about the surfer girl lifestyle and writing life with people, so I am interested in things like handmade business advice etc. I think there’s some great stuff out there, but I’m also pretty sceptical.

What rules?

“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.” (Terry Pratchett, Equal Rights)

If, that is, if you’re that good at whatever you’re trying to do, they want you regardless. (At least that’s how I’m interpreting it.)

And let’s hope so, because I am going to apply for a research fellowship. I have is a complex and interesting idea for a project, but will they think so? My application won’t follow a lot of the rules, because it’s quite a short-dated opportunity, but I might as well give it a go, right?

Every time I talk myself out of it with sensible advice, something like this pops up and whispers to me, “You want to write this, so why not just do it?”

Gewn ni weld.

Slow progress

Ah, the dreaded ‘under construction’. After a diabolical ISP trashed all my sites, I am slowly rebuilding… Lots more to do here, but more to see on my personal site at www.surfergrl.co.uk. Slow progress is better than none, and a bit-by-bit approach will get me there eventually!