This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book.
Bilal is a mild mannered accountant who lives in the quintessentially English village of Babbel’s End. He’s been an active member of the community and seems to be accepted by everyone in the village. Until he decides to honour his mother’s dying wish that he build a mosque in the village.
This book is largely about racism – the everyday, insidious kind that people aren’t even aware of, until they are pushed a bit. THere’s no great violence, but there’s petty hate crime (graffiti, nasty notes) and huge amounts of antagonism based entirely on the fear of the ‘other’. It covers the nightmare of friendships fractured and the shattering of a sense of belonging. It also shows the joy of people being supportive.
There are several points of view in the book, which means you get the see the situation through the eyes of the man grieving his mother, the wife having doubts about her life, the reverend who is trying to keep everything in balance, the village busybody who would never consider herself to be racist, the elderly Pakistani lady who is finally working out who she is (she was my favourite). It’s hard to write a book about something so big and not demonise either side, but Ayisha Malik manages to pull it off. She also captures that odd second generation feeling of your identity being mostly British, with a hint of the country your parents left behind.
I enjoyed this book very much. It’s warm, funny, angry and moving in turns. A great read.