In simplistic terms, 'The Translator' is a love story. The heroine, a Muslim widow working in Aberdeen as a translator, falls in love with a Scottish man, but is unable to have a relationship with him unless he converts to Islam. However, don't expect a fluffy, rom-com style novel - you won't get it.
The best way I can describe the writing in this novel is 'intense'. In parts it borders on being hard work to read. However, Aboulela is a good writer and I don't dislike her style - just sometimes find it a bit over the top. It's a good 'intellectual' story, not afraid of exploring complex issues in detail even sometimes slightly at the expense of the plot.
One of the things I like best about Aboulela's novels is the way they make Islam accessible and appealing to Western readers. Her books are unashamedly Islamic - perhaps in a way that would be jarring if it were Christianity being 'talked up' in the same way - but in a world where Islam is subject to constant analysis and dry debate, it's good to read about it from the perspective of someone who simply believes, and who finds their religion a comfort and a joy. As a non-religious person myself, I like to be brought closer to understanding the feelings of those who truly believe in and find happiness with any faith.
Overall, this is a good first novel from a talented writer. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Islam or Muslim countries. Her second novel, which I preferred, is also good, and I'll be interested to read the third if it's forthcoming.