The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain

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The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Nadiya Hussain has more talents than you might have thought: this is a very readable story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2017
Publisher: HQ
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008192259

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The Amirs are dysfunctional: there's really no other way of putting it. They're of Bangladeshi origin and they're the only Muslim family in the small village of Wyvernage. On the surface they look to be happy, but actually each of the sisters is struggling in her own way. For the most part they're doing it quietly, but it's not always the case. The eldest is Fatima. Her name's often abbreviated to Fatti: it's not meant unkindly, but she's well upholstered and at thirty she's unmarried. Even her mother doesn't seem to think that there's much point in trying to find a husband for her.

Farah's the opposite: she's beautiful, married to Mustafa who looks to be successful and she has a beautiful home. She's a supportive wife, daughter and sister. If only her mother would stop nagging about the non-appearance of grandchildren life would be easier. And kinder. You see Farah and Mustafa haven't told anyone, but they can't have children - and it's hurting. Farah's twin sister Bubblee is another opposite: she's moved to London to be an artist and her life isn't really back in Wyvernage any more and it's only tragedy that brings her back. Even then she can't stop saying what she thinks. Insensitive? You bet.

The baby of the family is Mae, now in her mid teens and into media studies. She sees everything through the video camera on her phone and she's not too worried about invading people's privacy. I mean, a good shot's a good shot, isn't it? She's more thoughtful and good hearted than she's often given credit for - even if she always being told to go somewhere else when anything interesting is being talked about. So four sisters - and there's a brother. Jahangeer, known to everyone as Jay, has been spoilt and idolised all his life. He's always just about to make a big success of something - but somehow it never seems to happen and one day it all goes a bit too far.

I'll admit I was sceptical: I've loved everything Nadiya Hussain has done: she dominated The Great British Bake Off - there would have been riots in the streets if she hadn't won. She's baked the Queen's birthday cake, published a cookbook (naturally) and a children's book and fronted a wonderful BBC documentary The Chronicles of Nadiya. But a novel? Was this pushing things a little too far? I'll confess that I didn't really start reading with an open mind. I told myself that I'd read so many pages a day over a couple of weeks and then do the review. I was won over as soon as I started reading and finished the book over a couple of days. (It's so peaceful at three in the morning, you know.)

The four sisters are glorious creations: they come off the page brilliantly and stop nicely short of being stereotypes. I don't know whether life in the Amir family is typical of life in other Muslim families (I rather hope that it isn't...) but I felt a part of it and envied the love and support within the family, the values which they all share even when they're denying that they exist. It's a lovely exploration of what it mean to be a family member, how the family know everything about you - and how they might not know you at all. I really enjoyed it and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

The classical story of Bangladeshi life in London is Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

Buy The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain at Amazon.com.


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