Tag Archives: Antigone

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire Title: Home Fire
Author: Kamila Shamsie
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408886786
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 264
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I will try doing some justice to the book with my review. I will only try. “Home Fire” is one of those books that come when you least expect them to and leave you stunned, make you feel a thousand things, and then pretend that nothing has ever happened. There is the storm and also the lull at the same time. When that happens to me, while reading a book, I know that the book will stay for a long time.

Shamsie’s prose is so evocative and tender that you can feel the characters trying very hard to balance themselves – their emotions and their motives more than anything else. “Home Fire” as most people have said and so will I, is an adaptation or inspired by “Antigone”. Antigone, a teenage girl is forced to choose between obeying the law of the land (her uncle, the king of Thebes, has forbidden the burial of a traitor who happens to be her brother Polynices who declared war on the city and in the process kills his own brother Eteocles) and religious law and sentiments toward her brother. The good brother gets the funeral and the so-called bad brother doesn’t. Antigone then must decide if she wants to give Polynices a burial or not, the punishment for which is death penalty.

I remember watching Antigone a long time ago. Ratna Pathak Shah was Antigone and I could not get images out of the play out of my mind as I read “Home Fire”. Art does cross boundaries. Anyway, back to “Home Fire”. This is the same dilemma faced by Aneeka, as of course Home Fire is loosely based on the play by Sophocles. Aneeka’s twin brother Parvaiz has left London to work for the media arm of Isis, after knowing about their father’s death. Their sister Isma tells the police where he is gone and Aneeka is most angry, almost to the point of telling her that they have no sister. Isma is the older sister to the twins who has taken care of them like a mother. She is the voice of reason, while Aneeka’s voice is that of strong emotion. Isma meets Eamonn (, while she is studying in the US and he is on a holiday. There is a connection. However, on his return to US of A, he falls in love with Aneeka, who will go to any lengths to go home and search for her brother.

Shamsie raises the issues of love, freedom, longing, exile (from a beloved and from a country), what home truly is and of course the most underlined theme of all: xenophobia and what it is to be Muslim in modern times. There is so much going on in the book that I had to stop, hold my breath or sometimes just wait till I finish gasping and then turn the pages once again. Her writing is stunning and more than anything else, she has this quality to speak with you and anyone else through her emotions. Her words are universal. She also makes Antigone accessible but after a while the story of Antigone is merely a skeletal framework while the story of Aneeka, Isma and Parvaiz is what keeps you glued.

“Home Fire” truly deserves a place not only in the long-list for the Man Booker Prize 2017 but also in the short-list and perhaps even the winner. The book makes you see your world for what it is and is most emotional of her works if you ask me. In fact, I think, this is my most favourite of her books. A read which you will not forget.

Book Review: The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

Title: The Watch
Author: Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Publisher: Hogarth, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1781090015
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

“The Watch” by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya is not a book that will suit everyone. It is tragic. That is the nature of the book. It puts forth its point in the most amazing manner. The point being: There are no winners when struck by tragedy.

“The Watch” is mesmerizing and will draw you in from the first page. It is a modern retelling of Antigone by Sophocles. Then again, the comparison ends only in the threadbare plot. The rest of the book is nothing like it.

Now to the plot: The Watch is a story which takes place in harsh terrains, almost in no-man’s land, where everyone is looked upon suspiciously and there is at times, no redemption whatsoever. The landscape in question is Afghanistan. The protagonist is a legless Afghan woman who has crossed over an unforgiving landscape to claim and bury the body of her brother, which is in possession of American troops defending an outpost in wartime.

The Captain of the troops looks upon her with suspicion – she could after all be anyone – from a suicide bomber to a Trojan horse wanting information. The troops on the other hand are fascinated by her and want to know more. The brother on the other hand is thought to be a high-ranking Taliban, whose body is being held for identification. For two and a half days the girl refuses to budge, sitting through the blazing sun during the day and the freezing nights.

It is through this time that the story is told, from different first person perspectives. The perspectives are those of the girl (Antigone), the interpreter, the Doc, the lieutenant, and the Captain. The book had me in from the word go and I could not rest till the time I finished reading it.

On one hand you have the grieving sister wanting to just give her brother a proper burial and on the other you have the system of war which does not allow that. The first-person narratives as written are brilliant. The writing is so strong that you cannot help but be swayed into the book and remain there till you are done.

The reason I said it wasn’t for everyone is that there is no happiness in the book. So I do not know how many readers would love or like to read such a book. Joydeep’s prowess in telling a story surpasses any other book that I have read this month. This is a surefire hit. Also do read his other book, “The Storyteller of Marrakesh”. Equally evocative.

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