Book Review: The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela

Antagonist is Natasha Hussein or Natasha Wilson, a half Russian and half Sudanese professor of Islamic studies who despised her last name because of Saddam Hussein so changed it to her Scottish step father’s surname, Wilson. Natasha is doing a research on the life of the Muslim leader, Imam Shamil, who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. As luck may have it, her star student, Osama Raja, who is called Oz or Ossie to hide bearing the same name as Osama bin Laden, is a descendant of Shamil. Oz invited Natasha to his house to meet his actress mother, Malak who confirmed the connection to Shamil and even showed her the sword Shamil fought with.


The book covers both the present day and past events. Present day deals with Natasha and her relationships with Malak, Oz, her step father and her father. Past events focused on how Shamil fought the Russians and won many wars. How his eldest son, Jameldeldin was captured at a young age and brought up as Russian. His capture forced Shamil to kidnap a Russian princess who only sees herself as Georgian. And finally, how Shamil got his son back but was eventually captured himself.

This isn’t the most interesting book I’ve read but I still enjoyed reading it probably because it showed how people can rediscover themselves and start loving those things about themselves that they initially despised.

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