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Minaret [Hardcover]

Leila Aboulela
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Jun 2005
In her Muslim hijab, with her down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper class westernised Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. Then a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. The years that follow hold more trials for Najwa and the realization that she has come down in the world. But she finds solace - in her visits to the Regents Park Mosque, the companionship among the Muslims she meets there and strength in the hijab she adopts. Her dreams of love may have shattered but her awakening to Islam has given her a different peace. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (6 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747576262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747576266
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,064,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leila Aboulela won the first Caine Prize for African Writing. Her new novel Lyrics Alley is set in 1950s Sudan and is based on the life of her uncle the poet Hassan Awad Aboulela who wrote the lyrics for many popular Sudanese songs. Leila is the author of two other novels: The Translator, one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year, and Minaret- both long-listed for the Orange Prize. Her collection of short stories Coloured Lights was short-listed for the Macmillan Silver PEN Award. Leila's work has been translated into twelve languages and included in publications such as Granta, The Washington Post and the Virginia Quarterly Review. She grew up in Khartoum and now lives in Doha.
For more info visit www.leila-aboulela.com

Product Description


Praise for The Translator: 'A story of love and faith all the more moving for the restraint with which it is written' J. M. Coetzee 'A novel that tries to give Muslims their due Aboulela shows the rich possibilities of living in the West with different, non-Western, ways of knowing and thinking' Sunday Herald Praise for Coloured Lights: 'Moving, gentle, ironic, quietly angry and beautifully written' Ben Okri 'This is the modern female voice fresh, diverse, challenging, uninhibited' Rachel Cusk

About the Author

Leila Aboulela was born in 1964 and grew up in Khartoum. She is the author of two books: a novel, The Translator which was published to critical acclaim in 1999 and a book of short stories, Coloured Lights published in 2000. Leila Aboulela lives between Djakarta and Aberdeen.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, emotional and beautifully human 27 Jun 2005
By napata
Once again Leila Aboulela manages to masterfully delve ever so delicately into the emotional innards of a woman throughout the varied ups and downs of her life. From a life of privelege in Khartoum to the drugery and changes of political asylum in the UK, our trip with Najwa (the main protagonist) not only familiarises her to the readership, it also sheds light on many aspects of Khartoum's societal life during various phases.
The transformation and changes that accompany the active practice of the Islamic faith by Najwa in exile, and the role that Islam plays in the life of Tamer (a protagonist)are both explored against a constant backdrop of human and cultural discord. Leila Aboulela communicates this in a genuine and almost tactile manner that few other authors of this genre manage.
Minaret takes its readers on a voyage to Khartoum and London. It also takes its readers on a universal trip that is insightful, emotional and beautifully human.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 10 July 2005
By A Customer
An excellent novel.
She writes about muslims in the west in such an honest way that is lacking in other novels. She speaks about practicing and non- practicing muslims in a way that is neither degrading nor glorifying. She speaks about them simply as humans. She talks about their struggles, their sins, and their desires.
She describes the details of the place, time, heart, and mind to a degree that makes you feel that you are touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling and not just reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting and Engaging Read 7 Oct 2006
Minaret is a very interesting and engaging narrative of a girl who loses the creature comforts of her former life but gains a new perspective as she enters into the Muslim faith. It is refreshingly written - whilst the author is descriptive, she is not overly so with the result that the novel has a very honest tone and seems to be written from real-life experience. For someone like me who is very uneducated in the ways of the Muslim community it was interesting to be presented with a view of quite a different way of life and to see Britain from someone else's perspective.

Aboulela has crafted a highly readable novel which centres around one girl's journey and which is thought provoking and original in it's execution. I'd highly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The positive side of religion - and a great read 22 Jun 2008
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
It's so refreshing to find a book that shows the positive side of religion - and that's coming from a non-religous person - especially when that religion is Islam. There are so many books about oppression, fundamentalism, or people rebelling against the religion, but this is the first I've found where the characters find their religion a source of comfort and happiness, without any fanatacism.

The principle character is Najwa, a Sudanese woman living in London after fleeing a military coup. Having been used to a life of luxury in Sudan, in London she works as a cleaner and suffers various hardships, but finds a source of peace and happiness through faith. Najwa is an interesting, plausible character and it is easy to empathise with her even for a non-Muslim reader.

The writing is beautiful, compelling and a joy to read. The story draws you in the from the beginning and is very believable throughout. I felt the plot remained plausible throughout, even at the end (where a lesser writer might have strayed too far into the realms of fantasy). Aboulela chooses which parts of Najwa's story to tell and which to skip very well.

Although Najwa's faith is important to her and there are references to religion throughout the book, it isn't at all 'preachy' and non-religious or non-Muslim readers should not be put off. It did make me feel slightly envious of people with faith at times - quite an achievement! And the storyline is interesting and well told, with religion as an incidental background rather than the driving force.

I'm surprised this writer isn't more widely publicised - she is very readable and I think reading this would help western readers gain understanding of ordinary, mainstream Islam.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but challenging 22 Mar 2007
By Jaybird
A really interesting story about a young girl who moves from a wealthy, priviledged life in Sudan, to an impoverished and lonely life in London. Her hardship and a broken heart, lead her to embrace Islam. I was fascinated by the way the lead character seemed to retreat behind her veil and how, once veiled, her maturity seemed to be arrested at that stage, so that she lived largely in a fantasy world, falling for an utterly unattainable man.

Her female friends in the mosque help to ground her and provide much needed warmth; I loved the easy description of her relationahip with her friend there, but ultimately that very sensible, kind woman serves to point up unreality of the heroine's world.

An insightful study of an intelligent, but damaged, young woman.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and intelligent 8 Sep 2006
This is a sensitive and intelligent book about a woman who has an affluent and Westernized childhood in Sudan, but then loses wealth, status and close family as the result of a coup. She settles in the UK and drifts through a succession of menial jobs, and she is surprised evenutally to discover her sense of identity through Islam.

I found this novel useful in that it explains that, contrary to the stereotype, Islam can empower women, and that there can be a strong feminine and even feminist undercurrent in the Mosque.

My only difficulties with this book lie in the style: many sentences employ the splicing comma, which interrupts the rhythm of the prose; and much of it is written in the present tense, which creates a sense of dream-like parenthesis. All of this enhances the bewilderment and ambiguity of the narrative, but in places it makes the story drift unnecessarily.

Altogether a very fine novel and one I would recommend to men, women, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of reading
Our book group read this recently; it is not a book that I would normally read, but I am glad that I have had the opportunity to read it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sally Walker
2.0 out of 5 stars No Substance.
I found this book a quick easy read. The story could've been great but for me it had no substance. Basically she was rich then she wasn't. Read more
Published 6 months ago by booboolina
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
Present for a friend who recently reverted to Islam, she loves the novel and wants to read more like this.
Published 7 months ago by sunflowerteeth
5.0 out of 5 stars Tender story
I found this book as good as '' Lyrics Alley'' which I read first. Leila Aboulela is an author who's books I will continue to read now that I have discovered her stories........
Published 9 months ago by silver_rain
5.0 out of 5 stars Minaret
This book is a real treat, great writing, easy to read and full of information and insight into the life of a woman who awakens to the peace and tranquility of the Islamic... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Don
4.0 out of 5 stars I read "The Translator" before "The Minaret"
...and I feel that "The Translator" was a beautiful piece of work so coming to "The Minaret" I didnt enjoy it as much but it was good nevertheless. Read more
Published on 20 Jan 2011 by CeeBee
4.0 out of 5 stars Life through the eyes of a Muslim woman
The story is written from the perspective of a Muslim woman. This is the first book I have read where the reader is given such an insight. Read more
Published on 24 Jan 2010 by Farouq Taj
3.0 out of 5 stars depends what you like!
An okay read. Interesting perspective on recent Sudanese history but I just didn't care about the main character. Read more
Published on 24 Aug 2009 by mandicat2005
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable holiday read
Enjoyable read, good description and insight into what it is like in Britain for someone from a different culture. Read more
Published on 28 July 2009 by dreamer
3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but dreary
Drama in literature often comes about through the exploration of human failings. Sadly, in attempting to provide readers with something 'moral', Aboulela delivers a slow boat... Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2008 by F. S. Harte
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