Accountant Bilal Hasham and his journalist wife, Mariam, plod along contentedly in the sleepy, chocolate box village they’ve lived in for eight years.
Then Bilal is summoned to his dying mother’s bedside in Birmingham. Sakeena Hasham is not long for this world but refuses to leave it until she ensures that her son remembers who he is: a Muslim, however much he tries to ignore it. She has a final request. Instead of whispering her prayers in her dying moments, she instructs Bilal to go home to his village, Babbels End, and build a mosque.
Mariam is horrified. The villagers are outraged. How can a grieving Bilal choose between honouring his beloved mum’s last wish and preserving everything held dear in the village he calls home?
But it turns out home means different things to different people.
Battle lines are drawn and this traditional little community becomes the colourful canvas on which the most current and fundamental questions of identity, friendship, family and togetherness are played out.
What makes us who we are, who do we want to be, and how far would we go to fight for it?
I received this book in exchange for an honest review but this did not affect my opinion at all. I also read and reviewed this book in February but waited until around the publication date to post it.
I have previously really enjoyed Ayisha Malik’s past works, especially her debut novel, Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged. So when the opportunity came about to review her latest book, I jumped at the chance. This Green and Pleasant Land is very different to her previous works. Whilst it still focuses on the theme of identity, the tone and content differ extremely.
This Green and Pleasant Land was ultimately a thought-provoking read that had me questionning what do we mean by home? How do we define our own identites?
At the beginning of this book, I was unsure how I would feel about it. It started off very slow and with so many different POVs and names that I got confused about who was who. However, when I got past the 150 page mark, I flew through the rest of the novel. It took me two weeks to read the first 150 pages but then only a day to read the final 300 pages.
This is a very character driven book. We follow the lives of a lot of the residents of this small village and see everyone’s thoughts about the building of the mosque. I really wasn’t expecting that but it actually made for more of an interesting read. We got to see how some of the other characters in the book were struggling as well. The highlight character for me was Khala Rukhsana. She felt like a realistic depiction of a Pakistani immigrant and I loved reading from her point of view. I especially loved seeing her growing friendship with an unexpected village resident that just showed how pure a friendship can become.
“Rukhsana wanted to say that home must be where you feel most alive.”
My main issue with this book is related to the length. I feel like this book is way too long and many parts of the book just felt unnecessary. I also felt like we needed more of a resolution towards the end, especially for all of the racist characters. It didn’t feel like the story was fully complete.
“Accept the things you cannot control because you will never be able to control how someone sees you.”
However, I still would recommend this book as it is such an interesting read. The focus on family, friendship, religion, identity and home made this book extremely thought-provoking and led to me having many tabs highlighting some of my favourite quotes. I hope that you all go and pick up this book as I believe that it is a book that most people will love.