Taking part in Video games by Huma Qureshi — a story of two sisters

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Taking part in Video games is Huma Qureshi’s fourth e-book and first novel. Born within the UK right into a household of Pakistani heritage, her earlier works embrace a memoir, How We Met, and a group of brief tales, Issues We Do Not Inform Folks We Love, which featured ladies of Pakistani origin unable to speak actually with the folks closest to them. Her memoir informed the story of how, after making an attempt Muslim-specific relationship web sites with no luck, she met and married her husband, a white Englishman who transformed to Islam to be together with her. 

Taking part in Video games appears, on the face of it, a change of route, barely concerning faith or cultural considerations. It focuses on two sisters of their early thirties dwelling in north London: Hana, a married lawyer, and her youthful sister Mira, who works in a espresso store and lives in a crappy home share whereas making an attempt to jot down her first play. Their mom, an artwork instructor, died 11 years in the past, one thing each sisters are nonetheless wrestling with. Hana has fled from any sort of creative endeavour and runs her life with obsessive management, whereas Mira is blissful to pursue a bigger dream. 

Mild humour runs by the e-book: Mira’s play is named Pavements and is about characters who lie down on the pavement — in some way she will’t work out why, however she persists nonetheless, and never solely as a result of she has a crush on her writing tutor, Dominic.

Hana, in the meantime, has her personal issues, albeit in a extra sombre vein. Married to Samir, she is desperately making an attempt to get pregnant. Qureshi writes with sensitivity in regards to the slog of a pair feeling they will need to have intercourse when Hana is ovulating, producing a few of the saddest and most insightful passages of the e-book: ‘She will inform that he’s discovering it troublesome to climax once more . . . Instantly afterwards Hana feels horrible and ashamed for pressuring him into it.”

Regardless of this considerably two-sided set-up, the novel’s energy lies in Qureshi selecting to not demonise both of the sisters, however as an alternative getting into their factors of view in alternate chapters. Whereas Mira finds Hana stifling and uptight, we will additionally see that Hana feels answerable for her youthful, much less financially secure sibling. As Hana says to Mira, “A few of us don’t simply get to drop out of life and have everybody else choose up the items.”

If sometimes somewhat pedestrian, the novel is well-crafted. Qureshi additionally has a expertise for writing kids and the eager for kids, which jogged my memory of Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss (2020), a novel a few lady with an unspecified psychological sickness that makes her doubt whether or not she can be a very good mom. In Taking part in Video games, Hana watches the younger son of a buddy: “He’s sporting denim shorts that fall previous his knees and somewhat white button-down; his cheeks have caught the solar, like over-ripe peaches, and his eyes are massive, wondrous. He’s so stunning.”

The sisters’ relationship reaches a disaster when Mira lifts dialogue she overhears and makes use of it in a play, but Qureshi manages to not make these debates inside the novel in regards to the ethics of utilizing materials from your personal life appear too self-referential.

At one level, Mira mentions that she all the time feels the expectation that she’s going to discover her ethnicity in her work; a mirror for Qureshi’s emotions, maybe. I definitely obtained the sense that having written instantly about her Muslim identification, Qureshi now desires to deal with different themes. Regardless of the e-book’s limitations, it feels necessary that race is barely talked about. As an alternative, Taking part in Video games is all about sisterhood, in all its gnarly glory.

Taking part in Video games by Huma Qureshi Sceptre £16.99 320 pages


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