Review: This green and pleasant land, by Ayisha Malik

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Published April 30th 2020 by Zaffre (first published June 13th 2019)
ISBN: 1785764500 (ISBN13: 9781785764509)

In the sleepy village of Babel’s End, trouble is brewing.

Bilal Hasham is having a mid-life crisis. His mother has just died, and he finds peace lying in a grave he’s dug in the garden. His elderly Auntie Rukhsana has come to live with him, and forged an unlikely friendship with village busybody, Shelley Hawking. His wife Mariam is distant and distracted, and his stepson Haaris is spending more time with his real father.

Bilal’s mother’s dying wish was to build a mosque in Babel’s End, but when Shelley gets wind of this scheme, she unleashes the forces of hell. Will Bilal’s mosque project bring his family and his beloved village together again, or drive them apart?

Warm, wise and laugh-out-loud funny, This Green and Pleasant Land is a life-affirming look at love, faith and the meaning of home. 

My Review

Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers and the publishers for organising this blog tour and sending me a copy of this book.

The Rosie Synopsis

Bilal and Mariam live in the polite country village of Babel’s End, quietly blending in to the background. Until Bilal’s mother dies and requests he build a mosque in the tiny village with two churches (one ancient but unused). Of course, the other residents don’t like the idea, and so begins the village war and Bilal’s midlife crisis. Fear of change and the unknown permeates the arguments and social exclusion.

Meanwhile, auntie Ruhksana moves in with Bilal and Mariam to recover from a minor fall. Ruhksana makes friends with Shelley Hawking, former headmistress, council chair woman and village busybody, when they start to walk together in a nearby field, talking about their respective lives in mutually incomprehensible languages.

The Good

I was very moved by this novel; Malik has a keen eye for human foibles. The plot is fairly simple but the complexity of human emotions keeps it interesting. The sub-plots of various romances and friendships is woven around the main plot and the ending was very moving.

I liked the characters, even Copsy who is a misery because he hasn’t been able to live a fulfilled life. He reaps what he sows. I especially liked Tom, grumpy old man and village ego deflator. The characters go on journeys of personal discovery and the community discovers its identity. Through interacting with each other they develop their understanding and slowly edge towards change.

The meaning of home is a major part of this novel. Where is home? The place you’re born, the place you live, or is is something more complex than that? It’s very thought provoking.

The Not-So-Good

I saw the twist coming, because it’s obvious to me that if you have a spare building that isn’t being used and someone can use it then let them bloody use it! There’s a huge vicarage in Immingham that has been empty for years (no permanent vicar); it could be used to house homeless people or as a refuge, but nooooooo can’t possibly do that, can they?

The Verdict

I really enjoyed this novel and I cried when it ended, for a good reason. It’s good and very moving.

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