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on 6 March 2017
excellent book, spooky how quickly you felt the reasoning behind the motive of the narrator could be valid. It was a very real book, worts n all
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on 2 November 2016
Good book and bought the Kindle version so was able to read it within days.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( 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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on 14 April 2017
I chose this as it was on a list of books that change the way you think. I was interested to see the author came from Derby , my home town.

The story tells of a young man of Pakistani descent who is English, went to Sheffield Uni and marries a local English girl.

After his father dies they take the body back to Pakistan and while he is there he becomes radicalized. i found myself getting very annoyed with the fact they kept on talking about Pakistan as 'home' and being ashamed of being British. If Pakistan is that great then go back and live there and don't criticize the land which has given you so much.

We don't see how the young man becomes radicalized but he returns to the UK with plans to commit a suicide bomb in Meadowhall.

I found the book quite upsetting and frustrating but t does make you think and wonder why these young British men are being turned into enemies of the country of their birth. What are they telling them? Why would anyone want to kill others in the name of any religion.

An interesting read but a very difficult to like hero.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 October 2016
Sunjeev Sahota's first novel is the story of Imtiaz Reina, a young man from a close Pakistani family, born and reared in Sheffield. Imtiaz's parents have not had a happy experience in the UK - his father, despite being a university graduate back home, can't get any work other than taxi driving, and is subjected to unpleasant loutish behaviour from his clients, and neither he nor Imtiaz's mother have ever really mastered reading English, or made enough money to live anywhere other than a fairly unpleasant council estate. However, Imtiaz has settled reasonably happily into British life, has British friends, and although a practising Muslim is laid-back enough about his faith that he gets his girlfriend Becka (an English fellow-student at university) pregnant while the pair of them are still completing their degrees. Unfortunately this action - coupled with his penchant for daydreaming - leaves Imtiaz with a poor (or is it a non-existent?) university degree, and little chance of a life that's any better than his father's - and in addition, he has to cope with being a father at the age of 22 to his baby daughter Noor. Imtiaz is just realizing the effect that all this will have on his life and how much his family feel he's let them down when his father dies (of a heart attack while chasing a fare-dodger) and the family return to Pakistan to bury his father in his homeland. In Pakistan, Imtiaz suddenly feels that he's found a home, proper friends and an extended family that love him. But when he becomes close friends with Aaquil, a super-confident local lad who introduces him to a radical cleric called Abu Bhai who decides to give the lads some 'training' out in Afghanistan, it becomes clear that Imtiaz's sudden identification with his homeland could be used to dangerous means. And, as we see from the start of the book (as Imtiaz, back in Sheffield and separated from Becka, lays plans for his 'mission'), that is exactly what may happen.

All credit to Sahota for attempting to get inside the mind of a suicide bomber/jihadist, and this book contains some beautiful writing - particularly about Imtiaz's love for his father, his messy relationship with Becka and his time in Pakistan, where Sahota deftly evokes both the country's landscape and its sense of community. The book was certainly an interesting read in many ways. But ultimately I wasn't sure it worked. If the aim was to make the reader sympathize with Imtiaz, I didn't feel that Sahota did a good job (other than in showing his love for his father). For me, Imtiaz summed up the late, great Hannah Arendt's remark about 'the banality of evil' - though he in himself was not evil, he plans to do evil, and in his case for quite stupid reasons. Blowing up a shopping centre will not help people like his father, who admittedly have suffered much in the UK, nor can he be seen as trying to help his family back in Pakistan, who are not under threat. Aaquil, the man who leads him to become radicalised, is clearly someone not to be trusted - as another of the characters says, he's largely been drawn to radical action as it's a great way of getting attention. Moreover, Imtiaz has had chances in the UK to have a better life than his father - it is largely though his weakness and failure to focus that he hasn't been able to take them. In Afghanistan Imtiaz witnesses the devastation caused by another suicide bomber and is horrified - but he persists in planning for his own mission partly (I suspect) because it's easier than thinking about what purpose this mission will serve, and what he has got caught up in. My general impression of Imtiaz is of a weak and vacillating young man, who is led into radicalisation despite his doubts because it is much easier to have someone else command him and to be part of a 'popular group' than to make his own way and try to forge a peaceful path through life - and because it is a way of getting out of family responsibilities and admitting that he has probably caused set-backs in his and Becka's lives by getting her pregnant so young. He doesn't even seem particularly religious - all the 'Ameens' in his narrative have a distinctly mechanical feel, and there is no real sense that he is deeply committed to the teachings of the Qu'ran - he prefers medieval narratives about splendid battles, in which he can imagine himself the hero. I felt a lot more sympathy with the would-be suicide bomber Hassan in Sebastian Faulks's 'A Week in December'. I guess - as another reviewer notes - that if we'd had more of a sense of Imtiaz's commitment to his religion, and of the exact turning point when he went from not-particularly-devout Muslim and family man to radical believer, I might have understood, if not sympathised with him, more. But for me he came across as an immature young man desperate to join an exclusive 'gang' and be seen as a hero, whatever the consequences, which was really a bit pathetic. And what was with the writing 'sempt' instead of 'seemed' all the time?

Still, the quality of the writing in some of the Pakistan sections, the interesting information scattered through the text about Islam and the few really loveable characters such as Becka, Quasoomah and her family and Imtiaz's father made the book overall quite a good read - and I'll definitely read Sahota's second book, which looks extremely interesting.

Three and a half stars.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 August 2013
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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on 27 November 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
How do you write a first person narrative about a potential suicide bomber? I mean, how can you imagine yourself into such an extreme situation and tell a believable story about it? I really had my doubts but, on the whole, I think that Sunjeev Sahota has achieved it.

The story is written in a popular slang style - Imtiaz is from Sheffield and so the narrative is written with Sheffield slang - 'I were this', 'I were going up Meadowhall', 'it sempt to me' - and there are no chapters, simply gaps where the narrator stops writing. It's not a diary but more sort of notes to himself, not to justify his actions, but to try and explain them to himself.

Basically, it strikes me as a desperately sad story. It's about a deep, deep sense of alienation. Imtiaz grows up in this northern town, watching his parents sacrifice themselves, taking almost any abuse in order to raise him, to see him have a better life than they. But when his father dies and he returns with the body to Pakistan, he finally feels a sense of belonging and quickly wants to fit in, to adopt the clothes, manners and beliefs of those around him, to not be the foreigner.

And really, it's this sense of belonging, of wanting to belong, that prompts him to take the actions he does. He watches the videos of atrocities but doesn't seem particularly moved by them, says that he's seen them before. He is outraged by what the fighting has done to Kashmir, but it's not a strident, violent anger. His commitment seems to come much more from that sense of belonging he finds in Pakistan and his sense of alienation when he returns to Sheffield.

By making Imtiaz's motivation more subtle and complex, perhaps Sahota risks making the story less believable. I had my doubts almost all the way through. But, in the end, it hardly matters because the story ends up being much less about a potential suicide bomber and far more about belonging, friendship, loyalty and loss.
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on 15 April 2016
Didn't actually read this, I listened to the audio version ( the narrator was very good) thought how the story built up was good especially around his dad's experiences. Still perplexed as to what drives this ideology but that's something I felt that comes across in the book; seems the perpetrators are too. Worth a read
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The main draw of this book for me was the fact that it is set in Sheffield, as I am from Sheffield myself. However, I was also interested in what makes someone become a suicide bomber.

Imtiaz Raina is a young man whose father has recently died. He is married to a white woman and they have a young daughter together. When his father died, Imtiaz accompanied the body back to Pakistan and found himself being drawn into the fight. What interested me was his feeling of being home there, even though he was born in England, but yet he also felt that he still didn't quite belong anywhere.

The story is told in a first person journal account by Imtiaz himself, as he goes back and relates how he met his wife and their life together, interspersed with his account of his time in Pakistan and a visit to Afghanistan.

It's an interesting read, although I found myself getting a bit confused at times, mainly by the names used for mother, father etc. This is a minor point though as it soon became clear who he was referring to. I think Sunjeev Sahota could be an author to watch for the future. He's written about a very current, and very emotive subject, and has done it extremely well.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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