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.
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.
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.
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.
The story itself is a riches to rags story of someone who goes through a huge change in her life. Najwa, the central character of the story, is born into a wealthy family in Sudan and has found herself, later in life, working as a maid in London. I like the style of writing where we are taken back and forth across Najwa's life. We read a few chapters set in the present, of her life in London. Then we go back to the early years and then back again to the present. The reader can gradually piece together the story of her life.
I found myself feeling sorry for her initially and then less so as the story progresses. Some of the decisions she takes are incredibly stupid. I won't say more for fear of spoiling the story.
The book ought to have been proof read properly. There are quite a few sentences that are grammatically incorrect. Not too many to distract from the overall story. I have no hesitation in recommending this book.
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.
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.
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.