Reem is a Syrian refugee who has arrived in London, trying to discover the whereabouts of her 10-year old brother, Adar. Obsessed with history and consumed by her fragmented memories of home, Reem is also hiding secrets she hopes will never be revealed.
After being placed in a tower block, she befriends Leah; a single mother who has been forced to leave her expensive South Kensington townhouse. Their unlikely friendship supports them as they attempt to find their place in a relentless, heaving city, and come to terms with the homes they left behind.
Both bold and timely, The Tower shows how Reem and Leah’s lives change and intersect in the wake of individual and communal tragedy, as well as in their struggle to adapt to a rapidly shifting society.
“The Tower is perhaps one of the best examples of how we can write about our world, in ways that are completely authentic to our lived realities. This is the first novel I have read by a Muslim, about Muslims , that escapes the need to pander to tropes.
The Islam presented in this book isn’t a political identity, it is an Islam that is breathed through every day life- and I will forever love this book for doing that. This book is our entire answer to how you write outside of Orientalism (even internalised).
It is a beautifully written novel and one that will move you deeply.”
Find the full review here.
“I’ll be frank: The Tower destroyed me. The story was fraught with emotion and it seemed like suspenseful situations lurked on nearly every page. After I finished reading, I had to take a few days’ break before picking up another book, because I was still thinking about Reem and Leah. I’m more than satisfied with the way the book ended, but their victories were hard-won.”
Sarabi Eventide, Muslimah Media Watch.
“Being an expatriate is something that many people experience when they are forced to displace or run away with their precious lives, or even seek a more promising future in a strange land. This feeling of physical and cultural remoteness, is difficult to explain to people who don’t experience it. However, the writer draws a new map of expatriation: one in which you can feel extraneous inside your own country, within your city or even inside yourself.”
A.Dais, Literary Critic, Palestine.
“The tower is not so much a place in this story but a person. It is a living, breathing entity, much like the diverse cast of characters who reside within it. It is a community of residents who come from different socio-economic, religious and ethnic backgrounds and are able to create a space where everyone is welcome and accepted regardless of their differences. And it stresses the importance of unity and tolerance, especially in the wake of tragedy.”
“We can definitely say that Malherbe’s great narrative skills of the setting bring us to the scene, making The Tower a moving tale. The book shows that when stricken with deep love rejection, tremendous loss of family members, etc. human nature shows its resiliency by making an effort to survive the darkness.”
Papatia, Founder of Fofky’s online bookstore
“By the end of the novel the definitions blur with regards what home really means and who or what we turn to for sanctuary and comfort in times of loss and confusion regardless of where we’re from. Given the on-going global pre-occupation with the refugee crisis, as well as the rapid expansion of the world’s socio-economic divide, ‘The Tower’ by Shereen Malherbe is an important addition to the arsenal of literary work needed for better understanding of and insight into a troubled world that needs to be reminded of its values of compassion and empathy but above all else its humanity.”
“The Tower is Shereen Malherbe’s newest contemporary novel. It takes place in the UK and is loosely based on the Grenfell Tower fire, in which 72 people died when the social housing complex was destroyed. This quiet and contemplative novel is told from the alternating points of view of two women who move into the building from very different lives.
The short chapters told from alternating points of view make it highly readable; I devoured it in a single day. I also loved Reem’s character. She practices both the spirit and the letter of Islam on the page, which is undeniably refreshing.
I really liked the quiet, almost atmospheric feel of the book and the premise is something I hadn’t seen done before.
This original, moving novel is well worth a read.”
You can add it to your TBR list on Goodreads here.
‘We all have dreams, but it isn’t about dreaming. It is about making the most of what we have … It may be thought that we thought something was bad for us, but in fact it is good’ -The Tower
Author Q & A
Why did you write The Tower?
I wanted to explore hope and humanity under circumstances that are relevant today. We are living in unprecedented times, with a global refugee crisis, a huge gap between the rich and the rest of society, the commodification of people and belongings. I wanted to capture this using a fiction novel, set in a contemporary city and the obvious choice for me, was to do that in London. I wanted to explore how diversity can be a strength and unify society. If we try to understand each other more and celebrate our shared humanity instead of using difference as a base for misunderstanding and segregation I think we would live in a better world.
What genre is The Tower?
It is contemporary, literary fiction.
What is the book about?
It is about a group of people, strangers mostly who, through various circumstances, end up sharing parts of their lives in the same community.
How long did it take you to write The Tower?
I started working on the idea about 18 months ago. It took about one year to finish the first draft and get the manuscript ready for publication.
Your last novel, Jasmine Falling was based in your heritage homeland of Palestine. How was it returning to your British roots for this book?
I wanted to set my novel in Britain and see the intersection between East and West. This something both novel’s share. This element is present in The Tower, but it is almost in reverse. You have Reem, a refugee adjusting to London but seeing home though a series of perspectives. And home, as it is for millions of people now is not a set place. For Leah, she is British, but she also experiences this shift between what she used to know and the situation she now finds herself in. These shifting homelands is something I have experienced, and this was an interesting element to explore.
Are there any novels that inspired you to write this?
There wasn’t a book that inspired me to write this, but how widely I have read makes constructing fiction easier. For example, when I read Elif Shafak’s Flea Palace and saw how she represented Istanbul through having the characters share the building. I liked this idea of representing characters otherwise unknown to each other in a shared space.
You write and research on behalf of Muslimah Media Watch on the representation of Muslim women, how has this work helped in your writing?
All our unique individual experiences add to the fabric of our writing and critiquing media has added to mine too. I hope that it adds authenticity and balance to the current narratives that are portrayed in society and it is an important reason as to why I write. That doesn’t mean every Muslim woman or women’s experience is the same, but the more we contribute to diverse narratives, the more we can add to this richness of experience and it is needed in a world where stereotypes tend to dominate.
When is the book out for release?