Roger Tagholm

 

Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, published by Bloomsbury Circus in the UK, has won this year’s £30,000 Women’s Prize for Fiction. The presentation was made at a reception in London’s Bedford Square Gardens, near the British Museum.

The novel, Shamsie’s seventh, is a modern re-working of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone, and explores the bond between three British-Pakistani siblings, one of whom leaves for Syria with a recruiting agent for Isis.

Chair of the judges, Sarah Sands, editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said Home Fire was a book which “spoke for our times. [It] is about identity, conflicting loyalties, love and politics. And it sustains mastery of its themes and its form. It is a remarkable book which we passionately recommend.”

Sands added: “There are no small themes here. To humanise the big political stories that we are talking about, of terrorism, and to see it from the inside – the subtlety and the nuance and the idea of people being tested, what it means to be British or what it means to be a Muslim – it felt ‘of now’…and she does it so well.”

Shamsie was born in Pakistan in 1973 and grew up in Karachi. She is a dual national of Britain and Pakistan. When she was planning the novel she became interested in Isis propaganda and how it offered a sense of belonging. “I thought ‘what sort of person would that appeal to?’ I was interested in writing about someone who wasn’t going to be a fighter, who wasn’t drawn by the violence,” she said. “I thought ‘I don’t want to tell yet another story of young angry Muslim man who becomes radicalised and wants to blow things up’, because that story is told too much. There’s much more to tell about the guy who is young and angry but he’s not violent and yet he still gets lured into this.”.

Home Fire has been sold into 17 territories, with Arabic rights going to Dar Al Tanweer