Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences
Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.
Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
Home Fire had some pretty impressive expectations to meet and that is probably the reason it took me a while to truly get into it. The high expectations and the weirdest wish to constantly see Antigone in every page of Home Fire really damaged my experience for a while. Shamsie wasn’t subtle about it either so I am still a bit baffled as to why it took me almost 60% of the book to finally feel invested in it.
Home Fire is a multi-perspective, modern retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone and its brilliance lies in its all Muslim cast of characters even thought almost all of them, to me, felt flat.
I don’t think you need to have read Antigone to understand this book but if you are familiar with it, then your experience might elevate a bit more. The Ismene and Antigone characters in this one were written wonderfully, their distance with each other and their differences and the obvious on Isma’a part along with the fire of justice on Aneeka’s part. It worked pretty well. Aneeka really works as Antigone because of the very obvious refusal on her part to accept things as they are and Karamat is the perfect Creon but there’s a bit of a twist to his character as well.
Even though none of characters are likeable and almost all of them are irredeemably flat, the story still works out in the end. The fact that all of them are Muslim and based in contemporary Britain brings a different angle to this old tale and I enjoyed it a lot.
For a book that’s a retelling of a much venerated Greek tragedy, Home Fire, in my opinion, comes out pretty amazingly. It stands on its own despite being a blatant retelling. Overall, despite having some complaints, I genuinely appreciated Home Fire.