Home Fire | Kamila Shamsie

novel | fiction | political

First published 2017

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Home Fire is a novel set between London, Massachusetts and Karachi. 28-year old, Isma Pasha, is detained by security at Heathrow airport while on her way to Massachusetts to continue her studies. She is leaving behind her younger twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz, who she has been raising since their mother's death. Shortly after arriving in the US, Isma encounters Eamonn Lone, the son of the new British Home Secretary Karamat Lone, whom Isma deeply dislikes. She confides in Eamonn about her family's struggles, including her father's suspected ties to Jihadism and the mystery surrounding his death at the hands of the British services while on his way to Guantanamo.

Eamonn returns to London and goes in search of Aneeka, Isma's younger sister. She invites herself over to Eamonn's apartment and the two of them begin a romantic relationship. After hearing Aneeka on the phone, she reveals to Eamonn that her twin brother, Parvaiz, has gone to Syria to join ISIS. He wants to return home, but Eamonn's father, in his job as Home Secretary, has made this very difficult, and has revoked Parvaiz's British passport. Eamonn eventually agrees to ask his father for his help in the matter, but Karamat refuses and forbids his son from contacting Aneeka again.

The narrative shifts to Parvaiz's perspective, unraveling the events leading to his radicalisation. Influenced by an ISIS recruiter named Farooq, Parvaiz naively embarks on the perilous journey to Turkey, a stop on the way to Syria, where he will receive combat training before he joins the media wing of ISIS, helping the Jihadi's film beheadings and torture. Parvaiz manages to escape, making his way to the British Consulate in Istanbul. He is killed in a drive-by shooting outside the gates to the British Consulate by Farooq.

The UK refuses to repatriate Parvaiz's body and arranges for it to be sent to relatives in Pakistan. Aneeka travels to Karachi to insist that her brother's body be flown home for burial. She sets up a vigil in a public park and the body is delivered to her there. Eamonn defies his father's orders and flies to Karachi to be with Aneeka.

My Verdict

I thought the exploration of the themes of conflicted identities and radicalisation were really interesting, as were the struggles of the characters: Isma, Aneeka, Parvaiz, Eamonn and Karamat. The male characters felt more sympathetic but still lacked the necessary depth to effectively address the weighty themes presented in the novel.

Published 06.02.2024

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