‘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.