Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018: winner

Fiona and Philippa at Brompton Library have been reviewing some of the books long and shortlisted for this  year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. The winner was announced on Wednesday, and Fiona is back with her thoughts –

The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018 has been announced and I personally wasn’t surprised.  Although I haven’t read all of the shortlisted books, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie really stood out as a powerful and relevant novel.  Here is the review I did a couple of weeks ago before the result was announced –

 

A retelling of Antigone, a Greek tragedy about a girl in love with the son of a politician who will not allow the body of her dead brother be buried in Greece.  This was not one of my first choices and it took me a while to really get into the story.

Told from the viewpoint of each of the characters, the book starts with older sister Isma leaving London following the death of her mother and the disappearance of her brother, to study in the States.  Here she meets Eamonn, the son of a controversial British Muslim politician whose past is related to her father’s.  The story then comes back to London, as Eamonn returns to his family home and introduces himself to Isma’s sister and aunt in Wembley.

The book is written in simple and direct prose.  As the story develops and comes to its peak, this simple style makes the tragedy at the heart of the story all the more powerful.  Shamsie takes us on a journey from the beginning with its sense of distance, detachment and secrecy, into the quiet world of a young and vulnerable man whose own losses lead him away from his family and into compelling world of extremism and finally to the heart-breaking end, played out on the world stage.

This is a story about truth, extremism at both ends of the spectrum, family duty versus moral duty, cultural identity vs personal identity but most importantly it’s a story about love and loss. This was not one of my first choices to read but I am so glad I did and am guessing it will be in with a very good chance of winning the prize as all the books I have read have been very good, but this one stands out.  It is a powerful novel, deeply moving and thought provoking, using an ancient story to highlight such a modern issue in an intimate and personal way.

Fiona, Brompton Library

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