12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The positive side of religion - and a great read
, 22 Jun. 2008
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?