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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, emotional and beautifully human
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...
Published on 27 Jun 2005 by napata

versus
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. Maybe that's the point, but even if so that doesn't make it any more engaging!
Published on 24 Aug 2009 by mandicat2005


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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 "napata" (Surrey, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Minaret (Hardcover)
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
This review is from: Minaret (Hardcover)
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
By 
Pooky Hesmondhalgh "Pooky" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Minaret (Paperback)
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 "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Minaret (Hardcover)
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. It's hard to find much to criticise - I did find Najwa a bit saintly at times, but she's still a plausible character and I can't say it really bothered me.

Highly recommended to anyone - it's a pleasure to read. I'll certainly be looking out her other novel and hoping for more to follow.
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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 
This review is from: Minaret (Paperback)
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
By 
Timothy De Ferrars (France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Minaret (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of reading, 30 Dec 2013
By 
Sally Walker (Eastbourne, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Minaret (Paperback)
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.

If you find it hard to engage with the narrative, as I did, in the first forty or so pages I urge you not to give up on this book.

Written in the first person, in this easy to read book, Najwa tells us her riches to rags life story, born to wealthy and high status parents and brought up in Khartoum, fleeing to London with her mother and brother when her father was convicted of corruption.

The narrative switches back and forth between different times. Whilst some in our group found this tiresome and unnecessary I found that it added to the book and served to draw stark contrasts between Najwa's life in Khartoum and her life in London. In simplistic terms her life is the reverse of what we might instantly assume: she lived essentially a Western life in Khartoum paying lip service to religion and tradition, whilst in London she becomes a devout Muslim. The description of her journey towards Islam is particularly interesting. As too is her telling of her adaptation to living in the West and the difficulties and challenges that this posed her, all the more intense as her former higher status life is dismantled and she winds up being a servant.

It is difficult not to come to view Najwa as something of a victim who seems to lurch from one inappropriate amour to another. I found it hard not to get a bit frustrated with her for not wanting to try and direct her life.

Overall a thought provoking book and allows one beneath the headscarf to reveal the truth of one young woman's life in London.

It's not the best book I've ever read and does not come near my top five, but most definitely worthy of reading I would say.
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2.0 out of 5 stars No Substance., 27 Sep 2013
This review is from: Minaret (Paperback)
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. She wasn't a practising Muslim, then she was. This book for me really isn't for adults. Teenagers yes. To be honest it just didn't have any oomph. 'SPOILER ALERT'. I didn't even care when her father or mother died. I'm not even sure that I cared too much for her either.
It didn't my emotions going and I felt I was reading it just for the sake of it. Sorry I can't recommend this. Maybe I would've liked it more when I was 16 but I doubt it
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read., 25 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Minaret (Paperback)
Present for a friend who recently reverted to Islam, she loves the novel and wants to read more like this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tender story, 27 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Minaret (Paperback)
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........
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Minaret by Leila Aboulela (Hardcover - 6 Jun 2005)
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