Comments from the judges
Home Fire is an astounding book, the kind that knocks you out of your everyday life, and hangs around long after you’ve finished reading it. While it’s a deft reimagining of Sophocles’s Antigone in a contemporary setting, it is above all a book about family. Shamsie shows incredible restraint in her writing, there is nothing showy here, the prose is economical, and yet the story telling is utterly devastating. It’s uncomfortable and witty and a pleasure to read.
Modelled on the Greek tragedy ‘Anigone’ Home Fire explores dramatically and successfully the way English Muslims are recruited to Isis, and makes plain that once in the movement it is very difficult, next to impossible, to get out.
Kamila Shamsie’s writing is fabulous. The author has a sharp power of observation and many of the comments on life are both strikingly original while simultaneously having a universal application:
She felt, as she did most mornings, the deep pleasure of daily life distilled to the essentials: books, walks, spaces in which to think and work. (10)
Small talk came more naturally to him than to her. He was careful not to dominate the conversation. Listening with interest to even her most banal observations, asking follow-up questions rather than using her lines as springboards to monologues of his own, in the manner of most of the men she knew.
Home Fire examines the complexities of East-West relationships with compassion, insight and intelligence, while creating a gripping compellingly readable story It is one of the most important novels of recent times. Everyone needs to read this book.
About the book
Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming 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.
Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide – confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.
About the author
Kamila Shamsie is the author of six novels: In the City by the Sea (shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize); Salt and Saffron; Kartography (also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize); Broken Verses; Burnt Shadows (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction) and A God in Every Stone, which was shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Home Fire was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award, and won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. Three of her novels have received awards from Pakistan’s Academy of Letters. Kamila Shamsie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was named a Granta Best of Young British Novelist in 2013. She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.
Home Fire is a riveting story of two Pakistani families based in London and the juxtaposition between how the two families are treated and how their lives intersect. Two sisters from a family with terrorist ties become involved with the son of a successful politician.
Shamsie’s compelling story is a modern-day Antigone set in a politically divisive London. This powerful, timely novel leaves a lasting impression.
Too often political leaders and media figures express utter bafflement when the citizens of Western nations become involved in Islamic terrorism. It doesn’t fit easy explanations, or offer obvious solutions like walls and travel bans. Home Fire comes at this story from a different angle: by focusing on the intersecting paths of the two British Pakistani families. For one group of siblings, their long-dead Jihadi father left a wound in their family, and each of them seeks to resolve that pain in different ways. In the other family, their father has guaranteed his ascendant political fortunes by adopting a hard-line anti-terrorist position, rejecting his Muslim upbringing and claiming only to be British, and expecting his children to follow loyally.
Based loosely on the Sophocles play Antigone, this beautiful, moving novel demands that you experience the terrible push and pull between an individual’s desires for success and love, and family legacies – obligations, religious responsibilities, and modes of honouring one’s forebears.