Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Aboulela, Leila "The Kindness of Enemies"

Aboulela, Leila "The Kindness of Enemies" - 2015

Such an interesting book. A lot about history and also a lot about current politics. A woman with a Russian mother and Sudanese father who lives in Scotland and researches the life of a 19th century Muslim leader. What's not to like?

The story of the Imam mirrors the story of the protagonist which could probably be the story of the author. There is a huge struggle for all the characters involved - fictional or real - and we can follow Natasha, the protagonist, in the 20th century with her struggle to see where she really belongs, Europe or Africa, or Russia? The same goes for the Imam who fights for his country, his son who is kidnapped as a young boy and then raised in Russia, Anna, the Georgian princess whose husband feels more Russian, her son who is also right in the middle of it. And then there are the modern day Muslims living in Scotland, Malak and her son Oz, who struggle for their identity and get into trouble just be being themselves.

A lot of people here who have a problem with who they really are, with knowing who they really are. I think if you are in a situation like that, you probably need as many characters to put it all in. And maybe that's why they all ring so true, they all seem to come from the author's heart. I am sure Leila Aboulela goes through the same questions and worries as Natasha Wilson in her story.

Great book. I will read more by this author. But I think everyone should read this book, I believe it makes us understand our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters better and the struggles they have to face every day in a world where they are marked as terrorists even before they open their mouths.

From the back cover: "It’s 2010 and Natasha, a half Russian, half Sudanese professor of history, is researching the life of Imam Shamil, the 19th century Muslim leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. When shy, single Natasha discovers that her star student, Oz, is not only descended from the warrior but also possesses Shamil’s priceless sword, the Imam’s story comes vividly to life. As Natasha’s relationship with Oz and his alluring actress mother intensifies, Natasha is forced to confront issues she had long tried to avoid - that of her Muslim heritage. When Oz is suddenly arrested at his home one morning, Natasha realizes that everything she values stands in jeopardy.

Told with Aboulela’s inimitable elegance and narrated from the point of view of both Natasha and the historical characters she is researching, The Kindness of Enemies is both an engrossing story of a provocative period in history and an important examination of what it is to be a Muslim in a post 9/11 world."


  1. Oh yes, this is going on my list. Thanks for your review. Thanks for reading the book!

    1. You are welcome. It was on the "new" shelf in our library and I couldn't resist. Great read.

      Have a good week,