Home Fire

Kamila Shamsie

A contemporary re-imagining of Sophocles’s Antigone.

‘What would you stop at to help the people you love most?’

Home Fire follows the lives of three siblings: Isma, the eldest, and twins Aneeka and Parvaiz. It opens with Isma traveling to Amherst University in America to begin her PhD. She is stopped by border control and interrogated for two hours, as she had fearfully expected given the islamophobia influencing both countries. She is eventually permitted to fly. While she is at Amherst, Isma meets Eamonn, whose father, Karamat Lone, is the Home Secretary of the UK. Despite detesting Karamat’s political policies, Isma develops a friendship with his son. Eamonn agrees to find out what happened to Isma’s father who was a jihadi, information his own father has withheld from Isma’s family. Upon returning to England, Eamonn ventures to Isma’s family home to give them the information he has found. This is where he meets Aneeka. The two fall passionately in love, eventually isolating themselves from the world as they become consumed with each other. However, there is one person Aneeka can’t forget as she ignores the rest of the world: her twin brother Parvaiz, who ran away to join ISIS but is now begging to return home.

Home Fire was a great success upon release, it received an avalanche of support from reviewers, prizes and readers. In Home Fire, Shamsie uses multiple perspectives to explore the complexities of islamophobia, loyalty, love and, most of all, family. She doesn’t shy away from Parvaiz’s painful journey as he is first targeted then expertly indoctrinated by an ISIS recruiter. She brings the reader into the mind of this young, naive boy and creates a wealth of sympathy and compassion as Parvaiz is slowly disillusioned and becomes desperate to come home. Shamsie reminds us that we are all human and our biggest strengths are love and forgiveness.

Discuss the similarities and differences between Home Fire and Antigone.

Which character did you most relate to and why?

How did you feel reading about Isma’s experience with border control?

Did reading Parvaiz’s perspective change your opinion on children and young adults recruited for ISIS?

Discuss the difference between Aneeka’s anger at her sister compared to her anger at her brother.

Discuss the differences between the Pasha and the Lone family.

What role did islamophobia play in each character’s life?

What role did gender play in Home Fire?

What do you think was the main message in Home Fire?

Discuss how Home Fire is relevant to modern society

Homefire-Discussion-Questions.pdf

Parvaiz was targeted by an ISIS recruiter, Farooq, during a time of turmoil in his life. Farooq played on Parvaiz’s complicated feelings towards his jihadist father and his sense of isolation within society and his own family. However, once Parvaiz arrived in Turkey, nothing was as he had been promised. After seeing the true face of ISIS, he was desperate to get out. Parvaiz reached out to Aneeka for help. She in turn begged Eamonn to convince his father to lift the ban on Parvaiz’s return. Karamat refused. In a last-ditch effort, Parvaiz attempts to flee to the British consulate in Istanbul, where he is gunned down.

Aneeka is devastated and requests that his body be brought back to England for burial. However, Karamat denies the request, forcing Pakistan to take the body. Aneeka travels to retrieve the dead body of her twin and sits with him in a Pakistani park. She refuses to move until her brother is allowed to return with her, drawing international media attention. Both Isma and Eamonn try to convince Karamat to change his mind but to no avail. Furious with his father, Eamonn leaves to join Aneeka. However, as he arrives at the park two men restrain him and strap a bomb to his body. The crowd flees and Eamonn begs Aneeka to run as well. She does, right into his arms and they die together.

Home Fire won the Women’s Prize 2018.

Home Fire was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.

Home Fire was shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award 2017.

Home Fire was chosen at the book of the year by the Guardian, the Observer, the Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard, New Statesman, and the New York Times.

Home Fire is set in five locations, which echoes the original Antigone’s five acts.

Home Fire is Shamsie’s seventh book.

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