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Minaret by Leila Aboulela (thoughts)

February 8, 2012


I first discovered Sudanese author Leila Aboulela last year, when I read and adored The Translator. I suspected at the time that she could become one of my favourite authors, and my experience with Minaret has just confirmed that. I love quiet books that focus on a character’s inner life, and Aboulela brings to that not only a different cultural background but a religious sensibility that makes me see, far more than any of the nonfiction I’ve read, how one could fall in love with Islam. She also has such a pitch-perfect approach to grief and love that every page becomes resonant with feeling; she’s the kind of contemporary author that convinces me I could never read only classics.

Ahem. Apparently I’m in a gushing mood! ;) Minaret opens in contemporary London, following Najwa, a middle-aged Sudanese woman as she goes to a job interview for a nanny/housekeeper position. Then the book moves back and forth between the present and the woman’s past history as the child of an elite Khartoum family. It’s a story about change, I suppose, the way that we adjust when circumstances render our previous dreams meaningless. But really I loved Minaret for Najwa: I really connected with her struggle to find contentment in her life and to figure out her true self. There’s so much richness in this novel that I imagine all kinds of readers will find something that speaks to them. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves character-centered fiction or international lit that doesn’t pander to a Western audience or who’s about to give up on modern authors. ;)

Suggested Companion Reads

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2012 12:27 pm

    You make this one sound irresistible; I just liked Lyrics Alley well enough, but perhaps this one would win my reader’s affections. I did want to give her another try anyway, so I’ll make this my next of hers.

  2. February 8, 2012 2:39 pm

    This is why I love book blogging – getting introduced my new books and authors like this. I’ve just put a hold on Minaret through my local library system, and The Calligrapher’s Night has gone on my wish list. Thanks for posting :)

  3. February 8, 2012 6:13 pm

    Oooohhhh I loved the Translator too and am now even more excited to read more by her!

  4. February 9, 2012 8:21 am

    Haven’t heard of this author. Sounds like good multicultural, women’s fiction, the kind I also enjoy reading.

  5. February 10, 2012 11:17 pm

    I almost checked out her more recent novel last week, but I already have too many library books out at the moment. Will be adding her to my wishlist though. I also read and liked The Calligraphers Night!

  6. February 11, 2012 3:56 pm

    oh I ll try this writer ,I ve not read a writer from Sudan , all the best stu

  7. February 16, 2012 4:32 pm

    This sounds excellent, and it fits in with my search for new women authors!

  8. February 17, 2012 3:10 pm

    I read Lyrics Alley last year as part of the Orange long list (I doubt I will do that again this year it has to be said, it doesnt fit in with whim reading) and I thought it had some wonderful moments and yet it didn’t win me over. I have heard lots of praise about her and in particular Minaret, maybe I should give this a whirl – especially with praise like this from you.

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