If authors should write about what they know, then the British Muslim Ayisha Malik is right on message. After working in a London publishing house and looking for love, she wrote a book about... a woman in publishing looking for love. Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, her debut novel, was billed as the Muslim answer to Bridget Jones and it did not disappoint, winning widespread praise. So too did its sequel, The Other Half of Happiness. “There are very few books about Muslims that aren’t issue-laden, and I feel this duology redresses that balance ever so slightly,” she says.
Malik’s new book, This Green and Pleasant Land, deals with issues aplenty, but they are leavened with her trademark wit. In a deathbed scene straight out of a 19th-century novel, a dying mother in a sleepy English village calls for her son and makes one final wish. Except that this is 21st-century Britain, the mother is Muslim, and she wants her son to build a mosque. How will he tell his friends in the village? More importantly, how will a minaret look, wedged between the local church and an art gallery?
“This is the standout book of the year,” according to award-winning crime writer Abir Mukherjee.