It is hard to refuse a deathbed wish and Bilal Hasham isn't the first to struggle with complying. His mother's request will put Bilal on a collision course with his friends, family and his neighbours in the south coast village of Babbel's End. Honouring Sakeen's last wish - to build a mosque in the village - will really set the cat among the pigeons, exposing the fault lines of racism and intolerance that sit beneath the surface of this quintessentially English community.
Both entertaining and provocative, this multifaceted story of faith and identity thoughtfully reveals the changing face of Britain while holding up a mirror to one's own prejudices. [Larger font]
An easy read, very topical themes. Produced lively conversation in our group.
Mostly enjoyed by the group. More so in the second half.
Everyone enjoyed most of the book but many were disappointed with the ending. It was an interesting depiction of English village life, amusing at times.
No one in our group really enjoyed this book. Most felt that the author tried to include too many themes and did a poor job of it. The characters were mostly superficial and not easy to relate to (and too many of them). To quote one member, 'a bit of a plod'. However, the ensuing discussion was actually quite lively and interesting. Probably not an author any of us would seek out in the future.
Group enjoyed the book, and we had a very lively discussion bringing out many different views and opinions.
A very well-written thought provoking book. We would love to see this as a film.
This book was fundamentally about racism but cleverly couched amongst the various characters' flaws and foibles. Although the book was well-written and was humorous and warm, because there was too much dialogue it became tedious to read. Symbolism was noted in reference to the name of the village and the story of 'The Tower of Babel' ( when everyone spoke different languages and nothing was ever achieved). Although a light read, because the book at times was uncomfortable and challenging, it initiated a robust and lengthy discussion which was also a surprise to everyone.
Most enjoyed this book as it followed the format of a typical novel set in an English village, with the usual range of characters. Some however struggled with the unfamiliarity of Pakistani names. The discussion that arose from it was very diverse and rewarding, covering a wide range of topics from immigration to local body politics. A topical read, especially for members of our reading group based in a small rural town.
Author tried too hard to address a variety of social issues - suicide, racism, cultural and religious divides, plus a plethora of character divisions, that was all a bit much in one story. Characters lacked real life credibility because of this.
A really rich and enjoyable read. She made a great job of bringing all the totally different characters to life. We had a lively discussion that encompassed our small town, and all the 'for and against' Covid rules, and how it affected us.
Most of the group enjoyed this book, although the very large cast of characters was a little daunting. It was described as 'Midsomer Murders' without the bodies! It provoked quite a discussion on the position of immigrants in society, as about half the group had immigrated into to N.Z. A great start to the year.
A pleasant and light read, with unexpected depths addressing issues of grief, faith, identity, and culture. It stimulated a great discussion.
We have been unable to meet during lockdown but I have received comments from some members. They found the book easy to read and enjoyed being transported to a "leafy, green English village". "Just what was needed to distract from lockdown". "Lovely characters", and a "Gentle and charming story".
Good discussion held on racism and how it affects everyone. Also how one strong person can influence how others feel.
Most of the group enjoyed the book. This was a on the surface light read, but actually it had a lot of depth and there were many layers if you took the time to actually look for them. Gave lots to talk about re acceptance/expectations of incoming groups/religions/races etc.
Hard to get into at the beginning, but enjoyable by the end.
After hoping for a lighter read, our group found this overall too light for our tastes! An easy read, with good descriptions of English village life, but most of the characters lacked depth. We would have preferred a story focusing on Bilal's Aunty Rukhsana and her blossoming friendship with the curmudgeonly Shelley. Rukshana had the best character arc by far Bilal was quite bland as a main character and his wife, Mariam, was annoying.
Enjoyable light read with likeable and some quirky characters. Blend of humour and more serious issues was akin to some British TV or film depictions of immigrant communities in the UK.
Our group found this a fun book to read. It's a bubbling lighthearted story, a little like a Bollywood movie in that the characters are not well developed. The focus is more on the way people react when met with a different culture. The writing is perceptive.
We enjoyed this light read exploring many ( some thought too many) contemporary issues in a rural British context. Some powerful characterisation eg. Auntie Rukhsana and entertaining situations were described. Some members felt the ending was "rushed".