Originally published: June 2019 (Paperback 1 October 2020)
Author: Ayisha Malik
Published by: Zaffre
Length: 454 pages
Dates read: 24-28 September 2020
Bilal Hasham has lived contentedly for many years in the sleepy and picturesque seaside village of Babbel’s End with his wife Mariam and his stepson Haaris, getting along well with their neighbours who they consider their friends.
On her deathbed, Bilal’s mum gives him one final task…to build a mosque in Babbel’s End. Bilal isn’t thrilled at the idea but brings it the parish council as a suggestion. For the most part, people are horrified at the idea of a mosque. People don’t see the need for it, they think it will spoil the landscape. What started as a vague idea, becomes a matter of principle, especially as it starts to become a racial issue.
When Bilal’s friend, the local vicar Richard has the idea of converting one of the two churches in Babbel’s End into the mosque, the residents really start to give the Hasham family a hard time. Bilal finds his office door graffitied with a message telling him to “go home”, he find a note on his car telling them they are not welcome and Mariam has to resign from her job at the local newspaper when her editor refuses to print a piece she has written about racism.
I really enjoyed Malik’s first two novels Sophia Khan in Not Obliged and The Other Half of Happiness about a young Muslim woman dating, so was keen to read This Green and Pleasant Land and the good news is I loved this book! Tackling racism in small-town England but not in a gritty way, I really enjoyed my time in Babbel’s End. I really disliked some of the small minded people and they way they treated Bilal and his family. Always a well respected and liked member of the community, they quickly turn against him for daring to challenge how things should be.
I also absolutely adored Bilal’s elderly aunt Rukhsana who comes to Babbel’s End to live with the family after a fall. Seen by the family to begin with as an inconvenience, she quickly touches the lives of everyone she meets.
The characters were all wonderful – I could clearly picture everyone in my head and although the main story is the battle for the mosque, there were lots of other stories going on – unhappy marriages, bereavement and unrequited love. There is humour in these pages but also serious issues addressed.
A thought-provoking and heart-warming story, I enjoyed this very much!
Many thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me on the blog tour. I actually already had a hardback edition but the paperback is out now! Be sure to checkout the other stops below:
About the author:
Born and raised South Londoner, lover of books (obviously), and writer of contemporary fiction. A former publicist at Penguin Random House, turned managing editor at Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, turned full-time writer. Her debut novel, Sofia Khan is not Obliged, and its sequel, The Other Half of Happiness, (Zaffre), were dubbed as the ‘Muslim Bridget Jones.’ Her latest novel, This Green and Pleasant Land, (Zaffre) is out now. She has also contributed to the anthology, A Change is Gonna Come, (Stripes Publishing), and upcoming collection, A Match Made in Heaven, (Hope Road Publishing). Also known for ghost-writing Great British Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain’s, adult books.
Wonderful review! xx
Ayisha Malik came on CWIP’s Witty Wednesday last month to chat about this book and it sounded really interesting, and funny. Your review’s convinced me that I need to read it.