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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Debut
This is Sunjeev Sahota's first novel and if this is anything to go by we can expect some really great things coming from him in the future. This tale is a story of our times, but I should warn you some may find the storyline upsetting.

Imtiaz Raina is just an average son of immigrant parents, he is married to a white girl from university who is having his...
Published on 24 Oct 2010 by M. Dowden

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strangly Compelling, but something missing
The premise for the story behind Ours Are The Streets is an excellent one, and in the right hands this could be a powerful story that could go some way to explain why young men that have been born and brought up in Britain feel the need to turn to extreme fundamentalism.

However, the writing style in this book is so very odd. Imtiaz is a recognisable...
Published on 19 Mar 2011 by Lincs Reader


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Debut, 24 Oct 2010
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
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This is Sunjeev Sahota's first novel and if this is anything to go by we can expect some really great things coming from him in the future. This tale is a story of our times, but I should warn you some may find the storyline upsetting.

Imtiaz Raina is just an average son of immigrant parents, he is married to a white girl from university who is having his baby. It would seem that he is set to settle down into life quietly like millions of others, so what can change him to become a suicide bomber? This book is his notes that he wants to leave to try to explain to his family why he is doing what he is. Due to the nature of this this is written in a slightly disjointed style, and shows him travelling from Britain to Pakistan to bury his dad, and then onto Afghanistan, before returning back home.

This gives some idea in to how these people are indoctrinated by propaganda, false logic and all the rest. Imtiaz starts off seeming normal, but gradually as his life falls apart he becomes alienated and paranoid. This is a story that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it and should be a good seller.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassion and wonderful prose, 15 July 2012
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This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
I came to this novel by a happy accident - I expected it to be Guardian-reader social realism, which is something I'd normally avoid. But it isn't that at all. It's a psychological study of - arguably - any young man struggling to find meaning and a place in the world. I don't agree with other reviewers who say the book needs more explanation of Imtiaz's motivation, of his conversion to radical Islam, because there was no conversion. To me, that's the whole, sad point. Imtiaz is a man adrift, sinking between two worlds, and if you asked him what he was dying for, he wouldn't be able to say with any real conviction.

What made this novel for me was the compassion at its heart. As one young man, Faisal, commits suicide, there's no glory or glamour, just the awful aftermath of the bomb, its effect on both the American 'enemy' and the local population and Imtiaz's sense of horror and personal loss.

And the quality of the prose is excellent. There's no question that Mr Sahota is an immensely talented author - for a first-time novelist, his use of imagery is extraordinary, and the structure of the novel with its skillfully revealed backstory works brilliantly. The depiction of Imtiaz's failing relationship and his impotence as his wife slips away is heartbreaking, and the reprise back to happier times at the novel's conclusion is masterful.

Sunjeev Sahota is a rarity, a writer who can really WRITE. I for one very much look forward to seeing what he does next.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, intense, thought-provoking, 26 May 2012
By 
S. Pawley - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
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Sunjeev Sahota's first novel is an intense first-person account of how an awkward young man from Sheffield becomes a suicide-bomber. Imtiaz is the British-born son of Pakistani immigrants, and at the beginning of the novel, he seems to be as much a part of British society and culture as anyone else - he enters a relationship with a white girl, takes drugs from time to time, and although he goes through the motions of Islamic faith, he is hardly committed to it. We discover before long, though, that Imtiaz's sense of his individual identity is uneasy. Torn between his parents' native culture and mainstream British culture, he does not fully feel part of either.
Imtiaz's sense of isolation and lack of belonging become clearer on a long trip he takes to his father's village in Pakistan after his father dies. As he puts it:

'I loved it when I'd be going round the village and people'd shout me over by calling, "Mubtasim Ali's grandson!" or when they'd introduce me as "Munchiki's great-grandson". I were always so and so's grandson or such and such's nephew or whatever. I were never just me, on my own. No one ever called out, "Hey Imtiaz!" And I loved that. It were like for the first time I had an actual real past, with real people who'd lived real lives.' (p. 100).

In Pakistan, Imtiaz finds the promise of a sense of authentic belonging, but he does not really find the thing itself. He still feels out of place and unsure of himself. When he goes with some friends to visit Kashmir and then Afghanistan, his individual weakness and yearning for acceptance allows him to be drawn ever deeper into militant radicalism.
There is a problem with having this novel related from a first-person perspective, which is that Imtiaz does not have a great deal of self-awareness. If he did, his relationships with others would be more secure, and he would not feel this desperate longing to be accepted by others in the first place. So this makes it difficult for Sahota to explain fully and convincingly how and why Imtiaz is drawn down the path he ultimately takes. Ultimately, I think that the choice of structure limits what the book can do, which is why I have given it 4 stars rather than 5. Still, given the choice he has made, the author handles this problem with tremendous skill. The first person perspective plunges us into the confusion and desperation that frame how Imtiaz sees the world. The result is a partial view of the development of his character, but an extremely powerful one.
This book is a reminder that multiculturalism cannot be reduced to platitudes about `celebrating diversity'. Being between two cultures can be difficult, painful, confusing and emotionally damaging to people who never manage to find a sense of real belonging. Instead of putting forward these arguments in an abstract way, this novel expresses them powerfully by plunging the reader into the mind of a confused and frustrated young man. It has its shortcomings, and perhaps not every reader will find it easy to connect with it, but this is an extremely powerful piece of writing. It is the most thought-provoking novel I have read for years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Young Man's Journey, 13 Feb 2011
This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
The story of a young Pakistani man, Imtiaz, born and brought up in Britain who becomes radicalised during a visit to Pakistan / Afghanistan and becomes a suicide bomber. It's written in the first person in the form of a letter to be given to his family after his death. Some elements of Imtiaz's journey are clear, well explained and convincingly written using northern dialect and lots of detail. His ordinariness is striking as is the banality of his existence. He lacks drive, energy, ambition and is fearful, afraid to speak his mind, is reluctant to stand out from others and very self conscious. He doesn't feel any strong sense of belonging and doesn't really join in with his peers. He is embarrassed about his father's lack of material success and his humility and acceptance of disrespectful behaviour. But then what happens in Pakistan / Afghanistan is less explicit and less clear and this lack of detail undermines the credibility of the supposed transformation and prevents the reader from really understanding the emotional, political or religious journey. How was he chosen? Did he "choose" himself? Why did he wait so long to commit the final act? Would someone in his position have accepted Charag's defection as calmly as Imtiaz seems to have done? Towards the end did he experience a breakdown resulting from the pressure to act? Who was Tarun? In common with another reader I propose to read it again to see whether I can achieve greater clarity second time around.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strangly Compelling, but something missing, 19 Mar 2011
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The premise for the story behind Ours Are The Streets is an excellent one, and in the right hands this could be a powerful story that could go some way to explain why young men that have been born and brought up in Britain feel the need to turn to extreme fundamentalism.

However, the writing style in this book is so very odd. Imtiaz is a recognisable character, he is young, bored and has found himself married and a father at a young age, but there is nothing in his thoughts to make the reader feel as though he is particularly angry with the world, or that he feels hard done by. Imtiaz and his young white wife live in Sheffield with their toddler daughter, they married against the odds and Becka, his wife has 'reverted' to his relgion.

It is not until Imtiaz's father dies and he returns to Pakistan for a visit that he starts to question his life back in England, and even then when he starts to associate with other young radicals there is no real explanation as to why he decides to become a suicide bomber.
Life in Pakistan is portrayed as idyllic, with family members almost worshipping him, feeding him and bestowing gifts and money on him. Coming home to Sheffield brings him back down to earth with a bang, and he realises that he is just another young man trying to make a living.

The passion and emotion that you would expect from a story such as this is lacking and the language is annoying at times but there is something strangely compelling about the character of Imtiaz that made me read on until the end.

Living very near to Meadowhall, I did find Imtiaz's plans to blow himself up there quite disturbing, his regular visits to check out how busy the place was did bring home to me just credible a plan this could be.
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3.0 out of 5 stars serious stylistic flaws and inconsistencies, compelling nonetheless, 29 July 2014
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A compelling read but I was disappointed this didn't give better insights into the experience of a British Asian Sheffielder or what could have led to his radicalisation. There are some serious stylistic flaws and inconsistencies. The e-book formatting is shockingly bad for £3.59 and the editing not what you'd expect from mainstream publishing. Full review at: http://stevek1889.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/sheffield-novels.html
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Sad, 5 Dec 2010
By 
P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
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Imtiaz, a potential suicide bomber, sits alone in his house in Sheffield and writes to his family, his estranged wife, his dead father, to anyone who will listen about what has brought him to the point where he is planning to die and to kill. Therein lies the essence of this impressive debut novel. This is not a story of wild eyed fanaticism. It is the story of a lonely confused, young man, with feelings of rootlessness, desperately searching for a sense of belonging.

Imtiaz's story starts as that of a very ordinary modern briton from a muslim community. He goes to university, meets (white british) student Becca, whom he quickly marries and with whom he quickly has a child. Everything changes when he takes his father's body to Pakistan and drifts into a radical muslim group first in Pakistan and then in Afghanistan (where some of the night time descriptions are particularly beautiful), and then returns to the UK as a suicide bomber in waiting. The driver for his change is not so much religious fundamentalism as a need for community and acceptance.

Sohata gives Imtiaz an authentic (to my ear) south yorkshire voice, writing in a semi dialect. The slow disintegration of Imtiaz, as he writes over several nights approaching his attack on the Meadowhall shopping centre, is both convincing and heartbreaking, but even more harrowing is his splintering relationship with his wife Becca, when they clearly both still love each other. The whole novel is structured around the collapse of Imtiaz, so that by the end, we, like the narrator are unsure of what is reality and what is imagined, and whether there may be the slight glint of hope.

A particularly interesting element of the book, one with which I am still wrestling, is the extent to which Sohata gives a convincing reason for Imtiaz being prepared to take the final step. He drifts into radicalism, and we never get a sense of burning fundamentalism and at one level that absence of passion may feel unconvincing. But perhaps Sohata is a much more subtle writer than that in refusing to take the simple route of creating a sterotypical urban terrorist. Perhaps the picture of a little boy lost, swept up in a tide, and eventually driven by his own collapsing personality is ultimately more convincing, satisfying and intelligent.

Highly recommended, but deeply, deeply sad.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and thought-provoking, 11 Jan 2011
By 
J. Dawson (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sunjeev Sahota's gritty novel traces the journey of a British-born Muslim into religious fundamentalism and terrorism. It is a brave attempt to humanise Western society's current favourite boogeyman as an earnest, confused and ultimately misguided young man. The book is well-written and absorbing and the author has a real gift for dialogue, but for me the central character seemed to lack passion. It was never entirely clear why he made the choices that shaped his future, rather he seemed to drift along and be drawn onto a dangerous path almost at random. But perhaps that was the point? Overall a well written take on a timely and provocative theme.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and well executed first novel, 17 Aug 2013
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
There are few authors who would take on writing a novel from the perspective of a would-be terrorist, and fewer still who would pull it off, but debut novelist Sunjeev Sahota succeeds. The subject is of course a controversial and potentially upsetting one, but it is handled very well. It is narrated in the first person, in the form of a journal written by a British Muslim preparing a suicide attack on a shopping centre. Addressed to various family members, particularly his estranged wife and daughter, it tells the story of his recent life and how a formerly moderate young man became 'radicalised'. It is a disturbing story, with a bit of a twist that becomes apparent later in the book and makes you question the reliability of the narrator.

It would be all too easy to sound like terrorism was being justified or even glorified in such a story, but Sahota avoids this. In fact, it is never really understandable why the narrator - Imtiaz - settles on such an extreme course of action. In fact, you come to feel Imtiaz himself doesn't really know. It's all too common to hear how a terrorist or murderer seemed 'very ordinary' and people who knew them can barely believe it of them. Sahota sets his protagonist up in this mould; married to a white woman, with a young child, brought up by respectable and caring parents, well educated, previously very moderate in his religious leanings, preferring going out drinking to attending prayers. Imtiaz's voice is convincing, right down to his Sheffield accent. He's not exactly a likeable character, but he's certainly not dislikeable either. He comes over as a fairly typical confused young man, desperate to 'fit in', struggling with the responsibilities of new fatherhood and mourning the loss of his father. There is no real hatred or spite in his narration, and particularly towards the end he cuts a pathetic figure. It is disturbing how easily he is converted, and the sections around this seem believable enough although I don't know enough about it to know for sure.

It is a short novel and remains gripping throughout, particularly in the final section as things start to unravel for Imtiaz, and as his retelling of events in Pakistan reaches its horrible climax. It doesn't really provide any easy answers for why people become radicalised in general, rather it is a more personal story. The characterisation is good and it does touch on the difficulties faced by Muslims in non-Muslim countries and of inter-faith marriages, but it's not really a preachy story and you don't feel the author is trying to make a specific point. Whilst I wouldn't describe it as outstanding, hence the four star rating, it is very strong first novel and definitely worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful book, 4 April 2012
This review is from: Ours are the Streets (Paperback)
This is a profoundly beautiful and touching narrative, written with skill and insight by an extremely talented writer. the protagonist, Imtiaz, it written with feeling, humour and compassion and, despite the shocking turn his life takes, you cannot help but sympathize. This is a controversial story, but one that, I feel, deals primarily with identity, with isolation and the issues facing those whose parents' upbringing was (both geographically and cultural) worlds apart from their own.

The timeline on which the story is told is cleverly constructed, and Imtiaz addresses a variety of characters as he tells his story. At times, it is shocking, and at times stunning, but always extremely thoughtful and original.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone. It is a story of extreme elegance, heartfelt tragedy, and, above all, a story to get lost in. Sunjeev Sahota has a talent and insight that, I hope, will only grow.
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Ours are the Streets
Ours are the Streets by Sunjeev Sahota (Paperback - 2 Sep 2011)
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