In a startlingly relevant update, Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire relocates Sophocles’ Antigone to present-day London and weaves a timely tale of two British Muslim families with differing ideas about bigotry, belief and loyalty.
After years of devoting herself to raising her younger siblings, Isma Pasha is free to return to college and complete her degree in sociology. She worries about leaving behind her beautiful, headstrong sister, Aneeka, but of even more concern is Aneeka’s twin brother, Parvaiz, who has disappeared. Parvaiz surfaces in Syria, pursuing the dreams of Adil Pasha, the jihadist father he barely knew. The two sisters are devastated by his choice and frightened by the intrusion of the British Security Service into their lives.
When Isma meets handsome Eamonn Lone in the college coffee shop, she recognizes him as the son of controversial political figure Karamat Lone, who was a member of Parliament at the time of Adil’s death and is now British Home Secretary. But it is Aneeka who sees in Eamonn a unique chance to get her brother home and starts an intimate relationship with him. Is it love? Or simply political manipulation?
Home Fire is Shamsie’s seventh and most accomplished novel. The emotionally compelling plot is well served by her lucid storytelling, and she digs into complex issues with confidence. Divided into five sections, one for each of the main characters, the narrative combines the themes of Sophocles’ tragedy with this most up-to-date of stories. As this deftly constructed page-turner moves swiftly toward its inevitable conclusion, it forces questions about what sacrifice you would make for family, for love.