Lisa Reads: The Islam Quintet

Lisa Reads: The Islam Quintet: Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, The Book of Saladin, The Stone Woman, A Sultan in Palermo, and Night of the Golden Butterfly by Tariq Ali

I have to admit it: I know virtually nothing about Islam and its history. When Amazon Kindle had a special on Tariq Ali’s The Islam Quintet, I thought that it might be a good way to get a feel for the story of many people on the planet. Sometimes fiction is a good way to learn.

The author, Tariq Ali, is an interesting character on his own. I guess he was born in 1943. He seems to be much more liberal than me or anyone I know well. I think he is an agnostic, growing up in a family that was culturally Muslim.

It seems that, during a conversation 20-ish years ago, he overheard someone say, “Muslims HAVE no culture.” This cluster of 5 books is a response to that little bit of nonsense.


Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree

Islamic Tile
Islamic Tile of Islamic Tiles Photo Credit: vitroid on VISUAL HUNT/CC BY

First in the series, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree is my favorite, so far. It is desperately sad, but I can’t explain much without giving the plot away. It is also… Lyrical, somehow. I don’t know how to explain it, but it feels like some of those Islamic tiles.

Set in Spain during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, it tells the story of a family facing massive change. They had conquered Spain several hundred years ago and were now facing the Spanish Inquisition style of Christianity. Will they stay in what they consider their ancestral home? Will they leave?

The saddest bit to me was the fact that well-intentioned or not, leaders of the Christians and the Muslims almost deliberately misunderstood each other.

It was very disorienting in some ways. I expected it to feel strange to see history reviewed from another perspective. I didn’t expect my emotional reaction.


The Book of Saladin

This review is going to be much shorter. I enjoyed the book, but I don’t know what to make it.


The Stone Woman

I got bored. I didn’t care about the characters. I stopped about 1/3 of the way through.


I haven’t read the rest. Maybe next year.


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