This is an unusual book and I can see that it has quite a wide range of reviews, Waterstones give it a 5/5 but Goodreads and Amazon are more in the 3.5/5 range. It is a Times and Sunday Times crime novel of the year and is recommended by the Guardian. So, here are 5 reasons why I enjoyed it and think it should be read:
- The blurb says it is like The Godfather and it is in the way that The Godfather is about the head of a family being killed and one of the children having to step up to fill their shoes. In The Khan’s case, this is a daughter which makes it unusual because in Muslim families it would normally be a man. However, this daughter is every bit as cold and calculating as some men can be so really there is no change there.
- The book is about family first and foremost with the Khan being the head of an extended family who are all loyal to each other and the family and live by their own rules. It is interesting to read about that occurring in the North of the UK and how it plays out. But it is also about straddling two cultures which many 1st or 2nd generation immigrants have to do. You find yourself in that difficult situation of being neither one thing nor the other and so must create a third way and this section of the book is quite inspiring although what disappoints on the other side is that society in general doesn’t offer the opportunities of employment and recognition regardless of skin colour. What happens is that the family set up employment opportunities, education, university degrees and support and create a company of the best and brightest. Just think how the wider society would benefit if they had been allowed to take part rather than creating the world’s most sophisticated drug service.
- This is very much a book about the role of women in society and how The Khan and his wife have allowed, if not encouraged, his daughter to go off into the world and take her place and not kept her tied to the home and marriage. How to get the balance right between the traditions of the old and new is tricky problem and one that many families have to find their way through.
- The writing is quite dispassionate which keeps things at a distance and in places feels a little like ‘telling not showing’. Mir is however, quite hard on both cultures when necessary:
Things had become so bad now that criminals were among the highly respected in society? He was so steeped in privilege that he hadn’t seen it coming.p125
A decade had changed the family dynamic; ideals had been shed, dreams smashed and reality had set in. The men were tired of living under the iron rule of their fathers at work, and then going home to negotiate the arguments of their wives and mothers in the extended family system.
But they had been raised to be respectful, and needed guidance on how to extricate themselves. The emotional blackmail used to keep them in place had started to wear thin. The threats of dishonour and shame upon family were becoming old.p269
5. We need more books like this that tell a story from another point of view, not a white one.