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2017 Man Booker Longlist: Home Fire

home fire

Next up for our panel is Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. Three panelists read and reviewed the book on the following criteria: 1) writing quality; 2) originality; 3) character development; 4) plot development; and 5) overall enjoyment. We’ve each provided mini-reviews and ratings. Here are our ratings:

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
2017 Man Booker (longlist)
Published in: 2017
Judges: Jen, Book Worm, & Nicole
Find it/buy it here: Home Fire

Synopsis (from Amazon): 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?

Nicole’s Review:  This was a solid book with an important premise – put a human face on a perceived terrorist.  I don’t want say much about how it played out, but like anything else people can get caught up in something that gets bigger than them.  It’s good to remind ourselves of these things.

This was a book about family and love; tradition and breaks from tradition.  Overcompensating.  I liked it, and it was a fast read, with good characters, but I think it made the Man Booker list over the subject matter and not because the book was anything spectacular.  A 4-star read for me.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality 3/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 14/20

Jen’s Review: I’m having a hard time reviewing and rating the longlist books this year because I’ve enjoyed almost all of them. I’m finding myself trying to be extra critical of books I’m reading in order to be able to differentiate between them but the reality is that I’ve loved quite a few of them and Home Fire is one of the novels I loved.  Home Fire is  inspired by Antigone and it touches on issues of love, family, betrayal, and burial rites that are at the heart of Antigone. It is told from alternating perspectives of the various characters in the novel and it also includes a few different types of narrative including poems and reports. I had no expectations going in and I knew nothing about it prior to reading they synopsis when they announced the longlist.

As a psychologist, I tend to be very interested in books that examine the inner lives of characters and how thoughts and feelings come together to influence behaviors. Home Fire is an emotionally devastating novel about family, betrayal, love, and grief. Shamsie’s writing about grief was truly brilliant (“Grief was what you owed the dead for the necessary crime of living on without them.”). I really loved the content, the character development for the two sisters, and I thought it was timely and emotionally powerful. I wasn’t blown away by the writing like I have been with some of other longlist books and I thought that some parts were less developed than others (sections on how Parvaiz ended up where he did). However, I did think it was a strong book that was hard for me to put down and the ending was really strong. Under my usual rating system, this would have been close to a 5-star read for me.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 16/20

Book Worm’s Review:  This was a 5 star read for me, and while sections of it are harrowing and painful to read, other sections are completely light hearted and humourous. I love the way Shamsie manages to blend these conflicting feelings into a solid narrative with an important message not only about love and family, but about how the media and politicians can spin anything to suit their current needs.

It is also a thought provoking book that puts a human face on terrorism and what we think we know about terrorists. It questions how much so called “home grown” terrorists actually understand about the life they will actually become involved in if they leave the safety of family and home. There is also an important political message about how individual countries treat their citizens and what it takes for someone to truly be a citizen (“Let her continue to be British; but let her be British outside Britain.”).

For me this book gets full marks in each category except character development which I have knocked down slightly as certain characters are not as well rounded out as others and originality because this is an updating of a an older story.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Average score across all panelists: 16.33/20

Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you think it deserves a spot on the shortlist? Why or why not?

Our Collective Ranking of Longlist books to date: 
1. Exit West by Hamid: 17.4/20
2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: 16.8/20
3. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry: 16/20
3. Home Fire 16/20
5. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund: 15.4/20
6. Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor: 14.87/20
7. Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: 13.9/20
8. Swing Time by Zadie Smith: 13.7/20

Up Next: Solar Bones 

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. I really liked Exit West more than this book, but this one has stuck with me more.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 4, 2017
  2. Tracy S #

    I have this one on my shelf, and plan on reading it soon. It sounds like a good one- can’t go wrong with Antigone!

    Like

    September 4, 2017
  3. This one does seem to be getting a lot of positive reviews overall even though a few people have pointed out the character development could have been worked on a bit more

    Liked by 1 person

    September 5, 2017
  4. Anita #

    Finally finished this one. When I think about it as a reworking of Antigone I’m more impressed then when I just consider it on its own merits. It’s a perfect example of an author coming up with a premise that sounds really good, but then failing to deliver on the promise of it. The author did a nice job of bringing the story of Antigone to the present day, but honestly, I was bored until the last quarter of the book and felt the book was emotionally vacant until literally the very last page. Of the nine books I’ve finished, it was my least favorite to read.

    Writing quality: 3/5
    Originality 4/5
    Character development: 2/4
    Plot development 3/4
    Overall enjoyment: 0/2

    12/20

    Like

    September 7, 2017
    • Wow, you and I don’t usually disagree but I felt completely different. I was engaged and thought it was emotionally very powerful. Interesting

      Like

      September 7, 2017
      • Anita #

        I know, Jen! I was surprised – – especially since I’d read a lot of raving reviews, and I was really trying to like it/give it a chance more than I usually do, lol. For some reason, it really didn’t work for me at all. I’m actually disappointed. I was forcing myself through it – – I think I read 4 3 2 1 faster.

        Liked by 1 person

        September 7, 2017
      • Yes, I think the main times we disagree is when the book has magical realism 😁

        Like

        September 7, 2017
      • Anita #

        I take solace in the fact that we both really loved Solar Bones.

        Liked by 1 person

        September 7, 2017
      • Ha true!

        Like

        September 7, 2017

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