Bird Summons

Leila Aboulela       Pages: 290       Published: 2019

The book: Three Muslim women living in Scotland decide to make a pilgrimage to the Highland grave of a female Scottish aristocrat who converted to Islam in the 1930s.  The three women share the same religion but their situations are very different. During the trip they each question the lives they live, their relationships, and their faith. Will they succeed in reaching the gravesite, and how will the journey change them?

You might like it because: It’s a well-written story that will pull the reader into the lives and minds of the three female characters.  Aboulela masterfully blends Arabic and Scottish myths into her story, which begins in reality and morphs into magical realism.

What did other people say?
“Aboulela is doing much the same thing as Jane Austen did when she brought her heroines to the point of examining their feelings honestly and so realising who they should marry and on what terms. Aboulela does this very well … a very good novel.”
– Alan Massie, The Scotsman (U.K.)

“Tender, but unsentimental…rooted in everyday experience without forsaking the spiritual, told in effortlessly enjoyable style.” – Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail (U.K.)

How quickly will you get into the book? Within the first ten pages the story had my attention and I wanted to read more. Then, things got significantly more interesting around page 80.

You might not like it because: The book starts off in the very real and mundane everyday lives of the three women, but part way through strange magical things begin to happen. Some readers might not enjoy this mix of fantasy and reality.

What might you read next?
At one point in Aboulela’s novel, a djinn appears. In Muslim mythology a djinn is a supernatural spirit that can be good or bad. Why not read another book that includes a tale involving a djinn. Pick up A.S. Byatt’s collection of short stories: The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.

Alternatively, stay in Scotland and read something completely different. Pick up Lin Anderson’s Follow the Dead: a crime thriller set in the Scottish Highlands.

© 2019

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