Review: Minaret – Leila Aboulela


Leila Aboulela’s American debut is a provocative, timely, and engaging novel about a young Muslim woman — once privileged and secular in her native land and now impoverished in London — gradually embracing her orthodox faith.

With her Muslim hijab and down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper-class Westernized Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. But a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. Soon orphaned, she finds solace and companionship within the Muslim community. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love.

Written with directness and force, Minaret is a lyric and insightful novel about Islam and an alluring glimpse into a culture Westerners are only just beginning to understand.

I had had Minaret on my Kindle for quite a while, but never really had the right opportunity to read it. So when I heard of Ramadan Readathon, I just knew that I had to include this book in my TBR. It follows the story of a upper-class Sudanese woman, who ends up living in poverty in London.

It’s #ownvoices for Muslim and Sudanese representation.

Najwa is an interesting character, and the people who meet her in the book don’t realise that she used to be somebody quite different. Now she is poor, a refugee, a servant, a hijabi, and religious. But there is a huge story as to how she became the person she is. And while we as readers learn about her story, we also see how she finds out more about the people that she used to look down at or laugh about, as she herself is now one of them. It’s a harsh reality for her, and for many people around the world, this isn’t a fictional reality but a reality that they experience every single day.

There was a slave analogy that I found totally harsh, as the main character says that she wishes she was a slave. Her friend calls her out on this.

This book was incredibly slow-paced, I totally didn’t expect that. It took quite a long time to find out how Najwa felt about events after they had happened, and I still feel like we didn’t find out how Najwa felt about certain subjects even though this book is written from her perspective and is in first person.

This story only focusses on Najwa and I felt like she was the only character that was developed. The others were part of her story but did not seem to exist outside of the narration.

I think that Minaret is a beautiful story, but it just didn’t work for me. However, that is not to say that you might not like it, and I totally think you should give it a try if you’re interested in the premise.

3 stars

Have you read Minaret?


4 thoughts on “Review: Minaret – Leila Aboulela

  1. Tears of the Desert is the autobiography of a Sudanese refugee from Darfur. She had been a doctor at home and when she arrives in the UK there is a chapter about how she is suddenly poor and low status and has a lot of trouble adjusting. Of course things change for her and she goes on to write the book and becomes rather famous. It reads like a novel so this made me think of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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