Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire is a modern update of Sophocles Antigone , which is about the title hero stealing her brother’s corpse despite the laws and having a proper burial on home turf. I have not read The Sophocles play, but I did read Jean Anouilh’s version which places the scene to wartime France but keeps the same message with anti Nazi undertones.
In Shamsie’s story, the scene is placed mostly in London and is a commentary on migrants, and more importantly identity. Isma and her twin siblings; Aneez and Parvaiz are at different stages in their lives. Isma is ready to study in the US, Aneez is in university and Parvaiz decides to follow in the footsteps of his terrorist father and after being influenced by Farooq, he moves to Syria and helps with terrorist activities, which lead him into trouble and raises the ethical and political issues that are brought up in Antigone.
The book is told through different perspectives, in the third person though, and it works. Shamie manages to pull off a coherent plot but this is only scratching the surface. The novel takes sharp jabs at the manipulative power of the media and gender politics (the role of the male in a Muslim family) but more importantly it asks about the question of identity. Can a Muslim in politics ban other Muslims and denominations from migrating? Is war a solution? Home Fires poses some complex questions about race and does answer them.
So yes, I thought this book was excellent. It piles on some heavy themes but is readable, and let’s face it: a well constructed novel. I never really used to like Shamsie’s writing in the past but here she has done a fantastic job