HOME FIRE: Humanizing the Dilemmas of Our Moment

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This week’s Igloo Book Buzz, HOME FIRE by Kamila Shamsie, was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize and published by Riverhead Books on August 15.  Suspenseful and heartbreaking, this is the story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. 

Ms. Shamsie revealed, “The idea of adapting Sophocles’ Antigone in a contemporary context was first suggested to me by a man called Jatinder Verma, who runs a theatre company in London. Hedidn’t define a particular contemporary context but this was atime when the papers were full of stories of young British Muslim men going to Syria to join the Islamic State, and the government was wanting to respond by stripping them of their citizenship.  I very quickly saw how those stories in the headlines could be laid on to an ancient Greek story about two sisters who are forbidden from burying their brother, because of his crimes against the state – one accepts the state’s edict, the other doesn’t. The more times I read the play the more it struck me as being so filled with potential because it’s about large themes of justice and the state vs. the individual while also being the story of characters whose lives are entwined by blood and by love.”  

Kamila Shamsie
Credit: Zain Mustafa

The book’s editor, Riverhead Vice President and Editorial Director Rebecca Saletan, said, “Though I’d long admired Kamila’s work, this was my first time publishing her. To my delight, that involved some of my favorite kind of editorial work—helping her to figure out, in conjunction with her longtime editorial team at Bloomsbury, how to fine-tune some of the emotional dynamics as she finished transposing the story from classical Greek drama to thrilling contemporary novel.  HOME FIRE would have been a pleasure to publish at any time, but it is so—what’s the right word, empowering?— to have it to bring before the world at this moment when aggressive xenophobia is being fueled from on high. A teenager goes astray, a family who have lived in a country for decades are suddenly ‘other’ – it humanizes powerfully and inescapably the dilemmas of our moment.”

 

Reviewer praise for HOME FIRE has been unequivocally rapturous:

“Ingenious and love-struck … HOME FIRE takes flight. … Shamsie drives this gleaming machine home in a manner that, if I weren’t handling airplane metaphors, I would call smashing. … Builds to one of the most memorable final scenes I’ve read in a novel this century.” —The New York Times

“This is a haunting novel, full of dazzling moments and not a few surprising turns … HOME FIRE  blazes with the kind of annihilating devastation that transcends grief.” —The Washington Post

“All of Shamsie’s novels are deeply moving and morally complex, leading to the kind of rich reading experience most of us hope for in every novel we pick up. Her newest has all of that and more.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Shamsie’s timely fiction probes the roots of radicalism and the pull of the family.” —O, the Oprah Magazine

Posted: August 14, 2017