With her Muslim hijab and down-turned
gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in
Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper-class
Westernized Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. But a
coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. Soon orphaned, and with her twin brother sent to jail on a drug charge, she
finds solace and companionship within the Muslim community. Then Najwa meets
Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common
bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love. Written with
directness and force, Minaret is a lyric and insightful novel about Islam and an
alluring glimpse into a culture Westerners are only just beginning to
Leila Aboulela on autobiographical elements in Minaret:
In both my parents' lives, modernity and tradition existed side by sidein
my father's case his liberal education and his loyalty to his family, in my
mother's case her devotion to Islam and her career in the UN. This interplay
between modernity and tradition would also become my own challenge and a feature
of my life and writing. In my case it is my desire to live in Britain and become part of the
UK literary scene while at the same time practicing my faith and reflecting it in
my writing. My parents' successful lives have given me a confidence and an
optimism that, although it is neither easy nor comfortable, modernity and
tradition can coexist.
She draws Najwa's odyssey of exile, loss and found faith beautifully.
This simple near-parable of a story successfully combines a tale of inexperience and cultural confusion with an insider's view of the conflicts and complexities within the immigrant and Muslim communities. A low-key, affecting account of one bruised young woman's search for wisdom and solace.
Library Journal - Starr E. Smith
Clear and precise writing, sympathetic characters, and positive portrayals of Muslim religious practices lend this elegantly crafted novel broad appeal.
Telegraph (UK), Tania Kumari
The novel deftly oscillates between past and present as Najwa struggles to gain a grip on her 'real self'. Aboulela is finely attuned to the nuances of cultural difference and her prose glistens with details of those things that define or unmake identity. . . . Aboulela's fidelity to her narrator's voice, as she struggles to find a foothold in an unstable world, makes for a disconcerting portrayal of how rapidly the ground beneath one's feet can slip away.
The Guardian (UK), Mike Phillips
The narrative is tranquil and lyrical. . . . Aboulela describes the uncertainty and terror of the country's westernized elite in the 80s, and assembles a persuasive description of why a fundamentalist politics emerged. . . . In a narrative of complex reversals, Aboulela takes a huge risk in describing her heroine's religious conversion and spiritual dedication. She succeeds brilliantly. This is a beautiful, daring, challenging novel.
The Scotsman, Jonathan Falla
Her prose moves with the steady pace of someone who knows her faith, and knows she must not falter. . . . Often delicate and evocative.
The Bookseller (UK)
Editor's Choice. A delicate, quietly told story from an interesting perspective, and it has real page-turner appeal.
Doria, 15, is growing up in the rough Paris immigrant public housing projects. She sets her dreams against the grim daily struggle of her life: "It's like a film script. . . . trouble is, our scriptwriter's got no talent. And he's never heard of happily ever after."
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