Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo review

Warning: there will be slight spoilers in this review which deal with disturbing subjects.

I’m probably the very last book blog to review Girl, Woman, Other but I have finally read it! Given the hype this book has had I’m sure everyone knows what this is about: twelve interconnected stories following twelve (mainly) black (mainly) women living in the UK. Through their eyes a story of  the nation is seen.

The stories are told through a stream of consciousness, which at points almost reads like poetry. It has a very lyrical quality to it and there were many passages that were beautifully written. This method also allows Evaristo to explore the characters more in depth, to capture their personalities which really allows the readers understand these people and their lives. Yet, whilst Evaristo deals with the small, personal things, she also tackles the UK at large, highlighting the experiences women of colour across decades. She delicately and effortlessly weaves both the personal and the political into the narrative. How the women interconnect throughout was also brilliantly done. It was fun to see characters reappear in other stories, and seeing events from multiple perspectives. The last two chapters were also excellent in wrapping up these women’s stories and created a satisfying conclusion.

Yet I did have some issues with the book. The most pertinent one is how Evaristo tackles some hard-hitting topics. One woman is gang-raped when a teenager, and another suffers from drug addiction. It is uplifting to see these women overcome their struggles and rise up and succeed, despite the hardships they suffered. And I understand that there are pivotal moments that make people change their lives for the better. But these topics are mentioned so briefly that it seems as though Evaristo is merely dismissing them. For example, the drug addiction and recovery is resolved in less than 3 pages, and the character beats her addiction whilst her family is on holiday. Really? Someone manages to curb their addiction within a month (we’re never told how long her parents away so could be less) with no help from anyone? It felt throwaway, as though Evaristo wanted this character to suffer, decided upon drug addiction but quickly abandoned it in favour of moving the plot forward. Rape was also dealt similarly to this. For such serious subjects, they’re dealt with so fleetingly I wondered if they were truly necessary. Those scenes and how they were handled left me with an unpleasant taste.

A slightly lesser criticism is that some of the characters sounded identical to one another. As mentioned before, the stream of consciousness was a really effective technique, but a lot of the word choice and the flow of the language were similar across the stories. This made the characters seem less individual and blurred into one. If the names hadn’t been repeated throughout, I probably would have struggled to remember who the narrator was. I should point out that this doesn’t apply to all of the characters, some personalities truly shone through just sadly others faltered.

It is obvious why Girl, Woman, Other has achieved the enormous success and critical acclaim it has. How Evaristo has constructed the novel is brilliantly done, and she manages to encapsulate the black, female experience living in Britain really well. There were just some things that irked me in the narrative which stopped me from completely loving the book. Some of the subjects brought up were not dealt with sufficiently; the drug abuse still baffles me. If you’re going to deal with serious topics, then perhaps give them more than two pages in the book. Plus some of the voices could have been stronger. Overall I did like Girl, Woman, Other but don’t love it as much as others.

Girl, Woman, Other is published by Penguin and you can find more information here.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood review

It’s no surprise I went into The Testaments with some trepidation. My previous experiences with Atwood’s writing have been mixed – I really didn’t like The Handmaid’s Tale and thought Hag Seed was good but forgettable. Plus the announcement of The Testaments, a sequel to Handmaid, seemed like a cash grab designed to take advantage of the TV show’s success. Yet I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised by this. The Testaments follow three women; Daisy, a teenager living in Canada, Agnes a girl in Gilead and Aunt Lydia, one of the villains from the previous novel. We follow their journeys and watch as their lives intertwine.

Unlike in The Handmaid’s Tale, the plot is incredibly fast-paced and gripping. Combined with really short, snappy chapters, this made The Testaments unputdownable; by the second half I was hooked and needed to know how it ended. Perhaps because Atwood didn’t need to do much world building that she was able to dive straight in and tackle a more complex plot. It definitely held my attention. There are obviously still the illusions to real life suffering inflicted on women throughout the world, and these were particularly chilling.

One of the reasons I didn’t like The Handmaid’s Tale was the character of Offred. She was  incredibly bland with no discernible personality traits. The Testaments is the exact opposite in this regard. All the female leads – Daisy, Agnes, and Aunt Lydia – have been given their own distinct voice and language. Even without looking at chapter headings it is easy to know who is speaking. They also have their own personalities and it is interesting comparing the three women, and how their experiences are reflected in their word choice. The character that has stayed with me the most is Aunt Lydia. I vaguely remember her from the first book but she never particularly made much of an impression on me. Here she is truly fascinating. She’s morally ambiguous, and I never knew whether to like or dislike her. Some of her actions are truly deplorable, whilst others are more noble. Even after the novel ended, I wasn’t sure how I felt about her.

In the case of Atwood’s writing, it was third time lucky for me. Due to my past experiences with her books I was reluctant to pick up The Testaments but now I am glad I did. Everything that was missing from The Handmaid’s Tale for me is in abundance here. With a riveting plot and interesting characters, I couldn’t put this one down. Now, to get onto Girl, Woman, Other so I can compare both Booker winners.

The Testaments is published by Chatto & Windus and you can find more information here.

Thoughts on the Booker 2019 longlist

Hi everyone! Most people already know that the longlist for the Booker Prize this year was announced yesterday. 13 novels have been selected and, in case you haven’t seen the list at this point, they are:

Margaret Atwood – The Testaments
Kevin Barry – Night Boat To Tangier
Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, The Serial Killer
Lucy Ellmann – Ducks, Newburyport
Bernardine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other
John Lanchester – The Wall
Deborah Levy – The Man Who Saw Everything
Valeria Luiselli – Lost Children Archive
Chigozie Obioma – An Orchestra Of Minorities
Max Porter – Lanny
Salman Rushdie – Quichotte
Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World
Jeanette Winterson – Frankissstein 

My first impression of the list was, ‘Wow, this is a really safe list”. There are two previous winners (Atwood and Rushdie, with Midnight’s Children being crowned ‘best of the winners’ at the 40th anniversary of the prize last year), plus previous nominees Levy and Obioma. Combine that with the popularity of authors like Porter, Shafak, and Winterson, and the Women’s Prize nominees Braithwaite and Luiselli, there aren’t many new or unheard of authors/novels. This could be simply down to the fact that I run a blog dedicated to books, I follow readers on my blog and social media, and so I hear a lot about literature. But the list as a whole is milquetoast, nothing seems to grab my attention. With that being said, there are some books I would quite like to read.

I have always been interested in reading Obioma and Shafak; I have always heard great things about their novels. Actually, I did read a snippet of Obioma’s The Fishermen and really enjoyed the writing style but never got round to picking it up. I’m now torn between reading The Fishermen or An Orchestra of Minorities first, but will almost certainly get round to reading his work. Shafak I want to read because I see her everywhere. In every bookshop her novels are on display, I’ve seen/read interviews with her, she seems to appear at Edinburgh Book Festival (aka my home in August) regularly. Never read any one of her books so 2019 shall be the year. Lost Children Archive also peaks my interest; I didn’t get round to reading it when it was on the Women’s Prize longlist so will make an effort now. I have heard mixed things, but when it comes to ‘Marmite’ books I tend to love them so hoping to really like it.

The other Women’s Prize nominee on the list – My Sister, the Serial Killer – I have already read and loved it. It is probably the most entertaining read this year. Yet it is surprising to see its inclusion on these prize lists. Whilst I adore it, it is not the most ambitious novel in terms of writing or plot. It doesn’t push boundaries. I suppose the counter-argument is, if it is successful in its goals which I think it is, it deserves a place on the list more than a work which is overly ambitious but fails in its aims. I understand and agree with that line of thought, but there is still this niggling feeling deep down that another novel deserves its place.

I have never read an entire Booker longlist and don’t ever plan to, this year being no exception. This is mainly due to 1. An entire longlist has never interested me ever and 2. The Testaments is on this list. Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale – a novel I never liked to begin with – seems more a deliberate cash-in on popularity than written for literary merit. The success of the TV show of The Handmaid’s Tale seems to be the main prompt for Atwood writing this. I also find it really weird that there will be a live cinema broadcast of Atwood discussing and (presumably) reading extracts from The Testaments. Which novel really needs a live cinema broadcast to promote it?! Why is the broadcast even necessary? It will cost cinema-goers £17.50 (or $21.82); I could just nab a secondhand copy of the novel and read it for myself with that amount. Everything about The Testaments seems like a cynical ploy for money, which is particularly galling considering the publicity material for the broadcast says that Handmaids have become a symbol for women’s rights and a protest against misogyny and oppression. So, why not make some dollar out that suffering, eh?

It’s hard to sum up my overall feelings about this Booker longlist, mainly because for the vast majority of it, I don’t have particularly strong feelings. There are some authors whose work I’m interested in checking out (if you’ve read any of them let me know!), others I’m not caring one way or the other. I might wait to see the shortlist and perhaps attempt that if the novels interest me, but that at the moment, I’m not going to rush out and pick any of them up.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson review

Hi everyone! This Thursday I’m reviewing Daisy Johnson’s debut novel Everything Under, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker last year with Johnson becoming the youngest ever nominee of the prize. The novel follows Gretel, a lexicographer whose mother Sarah abandoned her sixteen years ago. She has never heard of Sarah since, until one day she receives an unexpected phone call. The novel is split between past and present; we watch a daughter struggle to reconnect with her mother, while Gretel and Sarah’s life on a canal is slowly revealed, where they meet a mysterious boy called Marcus.

Johnson’s language is beautiful and haunting, capturing this really intense, complicated relationship. She also manages to put into words sounds and smells that I would have found impossible to describe; like the sounds of water against a barge. Her writing is truly impressive. Language itself is a major part of the novel and Johnson spends a lot of time mulling over it. There are the obvious allusions; Gretel being a lexicographer, so she effectively gives words definitions and early in the novel it is clear Sarah has dementia and is losing her vocabulary. This focus on language highlights how much is unspoken between the two women; how much Gretel would like to ask her mother but not having the words to do so. It is particularly heart-breaking as chapters set in the past show that they used to have their own, secret language; and to witness both this language and relationship crumble is saddening.

The structure of the novel is also very effective in telling the story. The novel is told in quite short chapters, which will flit between different moments in time. They read like memories, these snippets of life that we remember clearly. It is interesting as Gretel has tried to repress her memories after her mother left, not thinking about her life on the water. Yet as the novel progresses and the more she looks back, the more these apparently disjointed narratives come together to form a cohesive whole. The individual plots featuring Gretel and Marcus were fascinating in their own right, but together they are truly devastating, and it was incredible how Johnson wove them together seamlessly.

Everything Under is a remarkable novel and it easily deserved its place on the Man Booker shortlist. Not only is it an immaculately crafted novel, from the structure to the word choice but it also is just a great story. The relationship between Gretel and Sarah was my highlight as I couldn’t stop reading it, but I also really liked Marcus. I haven’t spoken about him in this review because his story is so full of twists and turns it is better not knowing much beforehand. But it was very compelling. Also, Johnson blends the mythical aspects into the novel really well, but again they contain spoilers, so I won’t say anything. I was swept away (no pun intended) by Everything Under and am eager to read Johnson’s short story collection Fen.

Everything Under is published by Vintage and you can find more information here.

Normal People by Sally Rooney review

Hi everyone! People might remember I read Sally Rooney’s debut Conversations with Friends last year (I think) and didn’t really get on with it. So when I heard all the hype Normal People was getting I was initially reluctant. But since it was longlisted for the Man Booker and won the Costa Novel Award (and if I was a betting woman, I’d say it will probably be nominated for the Woman’s Prize later this year) I decided to give it a chance. The plot is fairly straightforward; we follow Marianne and Connell from their last year of secondary school through to their time at Trinity in Dublin, exploring their relationships and their complicated friendship/romance.

The main thing I didn’t like about Conversations with Friends was that I didn’t connect to any of the characters. I fared much better with Normal People, perhaps because the focus is on two characters rather than four so there is more time to develop them. But I found Marianne and Connell to be fascinating to watch; at moments you feel sympathy for them yet at others they are quite horrible to each other. They were well-rounded and I was always interested in their storylines even if I disagreed with their actions. Some of the secondary characters however felt a bit flat; for example Jamie, a fellow University student, didn’t have much personality except that he was mean. That was it. I didn’t get a sense of why any of the others were friendly with him or wanted to hang out with him. I also found Rooney’s use of satire in the book quite distancing. Some of the conversations felt unrealistic and took me out of the book.

Rooney is incredibly observant and my favourite bit of the novel was when she mentions students reading and discussing literature only to appear cultured. I recognised people I knew within that section and the idea that public readings are essentially pointless was something I had never considered before. It was a really reflective moment and it works beautifully. Rooney goes on to write: ‘It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about’ (pg.221). This really drives home the idea of class that is prevalent throughout the book. Marianne and Connell come from two very different financial backgrounds; Connell’s mother is Marianne’s mother’s cleaner. But it also, ironically, hints at the hype train, people reading a book because others have read it and they wish to appear intelligent or fashionable or ‘educated’ for reading it, that Normal People has fallen into (and so have I, since I caved into the hype). Literature as a commodity is a very interesting discussion and this section of the novel provided me with a lot of food for thought. There are other examples of Rooney’s insightfulness and playfulness but this passage resonated with me.

Overall I did enjoy Normal People, more so than Conversations with Friends. This novel isn’t entirely without its’ flaws; the characterisation can be a bit lacklustre and some scenes dragged a little. I also felt quite distant from the characters at moments which made me lose interest. I didn’t love it as a lot of people do, but I feel it is an improvement on her debut and I would like to read some more of Rooney’s work in the future.

Normal People is published by Faber & Faber and you can find more information here.

Milkman by Anna Burns review

Hi everyone! So today I’m reviewing Anna Burns’ Milkman which won the Man Booker Prize last year. Set in an unnamed city in the 70s, our nameless protagonist finds herself receiving unwanted attention from the eponymous Milkman; she’s a teenager with a ‘maybe boyfriend’, he’s a middle-aged, married man who is a notorious renouncer of the state. Yet thanks to the rumours spread by her first brother-in-law, the community suspect that she is Milkman’s lover and any attempt to deny this seems to backfire.

Despite the lack of names in the novel it is obvious that Milkman is set during the Troubles in Belfast. Yet the themes Burns touches upon are very current in today’s climate; this is seen clearly in our narrator’s feelings towards Milkman. She feels uncomfortable, feels harassed by him to the point her life starts to be seriously affected, but cannot tell anyone as she feels he hasn’t done anything. He hasn’t harmed her physically so in her mind there is nothing to be done. Plus the obvious power dynamic between the two calls to mind people like Harvey Weinstein, powerful men who exploited younger, more vulnerable women who were frightened to come forward.  Also the idea of women being inferior and the dismissal of a group of women who appear to be feminists could be a critique of Northern Ireland itself, which has more restrictive women’s rights than the rest of the UK, such as the ban of abortions. Despite the novel being set 40 years ago, some of its’ imagery is frighteningly relevant.

Even though Milkman deals with uncomfortable themes it is beautifully written. Burns’ use of language creates this vivid, powerful image of a world governed by fear; whether that be the narrator’s fear of Milkman or the community’s fear of the state and informers. She captures the feelings of these characters perfectly and you can’t help but sympathise with them. There is a sequence where our narrator is in a French class and she comments on the sunset, and the way Burns uses word choice and imagery to convey not only the sky but the narrator’s mixed, conflicted feelings was the highlight of the book for me. However, I did feel like the pacing of the novel was affected by Burns’ word choice, in particular the repetition of words. Parts of the story dragged because Burns was reiterating phrases or words and I don’t think they added to the reading experience, instead I just wished I could skip those parts.

Milkman is an interesting read. When I was reading it I had very mixed feelings; some passages were incredibly written, full of beautiful imagery and characterisation and others felt like a slog. But I think the novel has grown on me since finishing it and having had a chance to reflect on it. The characters, the narrator in particular, seep under your skin without your realising and I am more attached to them now than I was when reading. My opinions in general became more positive after putting the book down. Though I still don’t think Milkman is for everyone; the stream-of-consciousness and lack of names can be confusing, especially at the beginning, or maybe some aren’t fascinated by that period of history. But I do think Milkman is a worthy Man Booker winner and certainly worth giving a try if you’re at all interested.

Milkman is published by Faber & Faber and you can find more information here.

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner review

Hi everyone! I promise I am doing Nonfiction November ( hopefully I’ll get a review for one of the books up next week) but I had to go to the hospital for a skin biopsy during the week and fancied a lighter fare while I waited. So I picked up Hotel du Lac, a Man Booker winner by Anita Brookner. Our narrator is Edith Hope, who is a romance writer banished to the eponymous hotel in Switzerland after embarrassing herself and her friends. While there she meets Philip Neville and an opportunity for romance presents itself to Edith.

Brookner reminded me of Barbara Pym while I was reading this, especially Excellent Women. Their ability to zone in and remark on the mannerisms, the way people carry themselves, is extraordinary. They can sum up social classes with a phrase or a sentence, and often when reading their observations, you realise how accurate they are but you (or certainly I) never took note in real life. It makes Hotel du Lac a joy to read when Brookner focuses on an aspect of society and studies it.

Yet for all the social commentary, Hotel du Lac feels like a book about books. The plot revolves around a romance novelist within the confines of a romantic book, or the setting and appearance of Neville feels like they should be in a romance. But Brookner plays with romantic tropes, and without giving away spoilers, she subverts them and shows how ridiculous they sometimes are. Aside from that, literature is woven through the book. It’s repeatedly noted that Edith looks like Virginia Woolf; a striking comparison considering the types of novels they write and how Brookner occasionally employs stream of consciousness. There is also a feeling Edith has of wanting to write something different; something better, than she has under the pseudonym Vanessa Wilde (a nod to Woolf’s sister perhaps?)

The other characters are also fascinating, though some feel like caricatures. As we see them through Edith’s perspective, it is hard to know whether she is seeing them accurately or if she’s projecting onto them traits they don’t possess. Monica, forever wandering around with her little dog Kiki, is a good example. Edith sees her and makes up these stories about why this glamourous woman is at the hotel but none of them are true, as she reveals the reason why later in the book. So as a reader you are never sure how accurate the portrayals of the other guests are.

I did enjoy Hotel du Lac, and I’m curious to read more of Brookner’s work. I really enjoyed her social commentary it was both interesting and funny, especially when I had seen some of the things she was talking about in real life. It is quite slow-paced in moments and they dragged a little. It seems odd to say as the book is short, but I felt those moments were unnecessary. But overall it was a fun read and I’m glad I picked it up – it made a nice distraction from the hospital!

Hotel du Lac is published by Penguin and you can find more information here.

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin review

Since Halloween is this week I decided to review Samanta Schweblin’s unsettling Fever Dream, which has been translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell. I first heard of this when it was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize last year, and have only recently got round to it. Young mum Amanda is lying in a hospital bed, dying of some unknown illness. Beside her is David, the son of a woman Amanda has recently befriended, and together they go over the events leading them to this moment.

I’m going to be completely honest; I have no idea what is going on in this book. Other than the vague plot outline above, I have no clue. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The ambiguity in the novel gives it this disturbing feel, and you come away after reading feeling very unsettled. Schweblin does a great job of building tension; this sense of dread leaps from the page, making you want to read on. It also places the reader in the same position as Amanda, who is trying to work out how she wound up in hospital.

The characters are really well-written. They are also ambiguous; the reader never knowing if they are to be believed or not. This is especially true of David and his mother Carla. At one point Carla describes David as a monster. Is he? Or is Carla a monster herself? Is all this in Amanda’s head? You’re never told, so as a reader you’re left to work out what is going on and who to trust. I liked this aspect of the book, but I know it won’t be for everyone.

That last line pretty much sums up my feelings on Fever Dream. This is very much a Marmite book; you’re either going to love it or hate it. From the unusual way it is told (it is just dialogue between Amanda and David), to the characters to the ambiguity in the plot, it is certainly an unconventional novel. Yet I enjoyed it all the same. Schweblin writes a very compelling – albeit confusing – story, which grabs out from the opening pages. The theme of pesticides and other poisons is carefully woven through the narrative, and I found the characters fascinating. If you like weird or unusual books, you should check out Fever Dream. If you don’t, this novel will seem like a nightmare.

Fever Dream is published by OneWorld and you can find more information here.

Snap by Belinda Bauer review

Hi everyone! Since the Man Booker Prize shortlist is to be unveiled this week on the 20th September, I thought I would read one of the long listed novels. I find the Man Booker interesting as I always consider the nominees a mixed bag; there’s some I adore, like Lincoln in the Bardo, and others I don’t get the hype around. However when I heard Belinda Bauer’s new novel Snap was nominated, I was definitely intrigued. It begins in 1998 where Jack Bright and younger sisters Joy and Merry are waiting in the car on a layby while their mum goes to find a phone to call emergency services. She’s been gone an hour when the children, fed up of waiting in a boiling hot car, decide to go and find her. Except they don’t find her; only the phone dangling off the hook. We then fast forward three years later to see how their mum’s disappearance has affected them.

The characterisation was a bit haphazard. I loved the children, and I think Bauer did an excellent job of portraying kids who had experienced trauma and grief. Even if you didn’t necessarily agree with their actions, you could understand and empathise with them. This is particularly true of Jack, who has had to grow up very quickly and well before his time, in order to look after his sisters. His character arc was particularly heartbreaking and I was very moved by him. Whenever a chapter was dedicated to the children I devoured it.

By contrast, I wasn’t impressed with the chapters about the police officers. They all seemed to be cliches, especially hard-as-nails Detective Chief Inspector Marvel. There was nothing particularly interesting or original about them; at moments I found myself rolling my eyes. Also one officer in particular seems to act a bit as comic relief; while I understand Bauer’s decision to include him, I didn’t find him funny or even relevant at points. He could’ve been replaced by any other officer and I wouldn’t have noticed. Another character, Catherine While, was so dull and non-descript it’s difficult to know what to say about her. She’s ‘there’.

Also the amount of coincidences became almost laughable. Whilst coincidences obviously do happen, the sheer amount of them borderlined on ridiculous. It became really bizarre towards the end and I think you do have to suspend belief before reading the novel. There were moments when reading when I would think ‘Really?!’ This was particularly frustrating as I found other passages really well written but others fell flat.

Overall, I thought Snap was a mixed reading experience. Some things I really enjoyed about the novel; others I was disappointed by. Without going into spoilers the ending, while poignant, wasn’t satisfying which I found a pity; the novel seemed to building up to this thrilling climax which never quite delivered. I find this an odd addition to the longlist; it doesn’t really do anything new or interesting with the genre and I do wonder if some better thrillers could have taken its place.
Snap is published by Transworld and you can find more information here.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie review

Hi everyone! Since the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction is announced on Wednesday 6th June I thought I would take a look at one of the nominees. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie has been everywhere; as well as the Women’s Prize, it has been shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel and longlisted for the Man Booker. This is a modern retelling of the play Antigone though you don’t need to have read it before starting this. Isma has gone to the US to study her PhD, leaving younger siblings Aneeka and Parvaiz behind. Aneeka is at University studying law, while Parvaiz is drawn into darker forces, and ultimately joins ISIS.

Shamsie does an excellent job of characterisation. Each section is narrated by a different person and each have their own unique voice. This technique not only allows the characters depth and elicits empathy, but it gives the reader a chance to understand the challenges faced by Muslims from multiple perspectives.

An early example is when Isma is stopped and interrogated before her flight to the States. An officer implies that a jacket given to Isma isn’t hers, and then starts to ask her opinion on topics such as Israel, suicide bombers and The Great British Bake Off. It is a truly eye-opening sequence, revealing the aggressions and prejudices Muslims face.

While Shamsie describes these events, and later on Parvaiz’s radicalisation, she never dictates to the reader how they should feel. You are left to judge these characters however way you choose, something I really appreciated. It gives the reader some agency instead of brow-beating them into how they must react and what to take away from this novel, unlike some of the other novels on the Women’s Prize longlist.

Shamsie also writes beautifully. Her language is evocative and visceral, making you feel as though you are with these characters. Yet it isn’t pretentious or flowery; Shamsie keeps it simple but effective. The result is stunning descriptions of London with intriguing character development. It is very hard to put this book down.

Despite the many praise I can heap on Home Fire I did have one small issue. Without giving away spoilers I found the ending to be a bit ludicrous. The novel has many dramatic twists and revelations throughout, all working well to add tension and build to a thrilling climax. However, the climax was so melodramatic it was almost funny. All these events cannot happen to one person, and I did have to suspend my disbelief for the last few pages. It was a bit of disappointment considering how much I loved the rest of the novel.

It is easy to see why Home Fire has been gathering praise, and I think it is justified. Shamsie tackles some big, topical themes but is never heavy handed. She has great characterisation and her writing style is incredibly vivid. Like I said previously I’m not a fan of the ending; but there is still plenty to enjoy here.

Home Fire is published by Bloomsbury and you can find more information here.