Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Bilal isn’t a devout Muslim but his mother’s dying wish is on his mind. She wanted him to build a mosque… in the small English village he calls home.

Richard knew cages would be rattled. It was inevitable when people lived in such small ones.

Ayisha Malik’s warm writing finds the perfect balance in showing what everyday Islamophobia is, especially among people who would not consider themselves racist. Before his announcement, Bilal was “one of them” often called Bill, but he becomes othered when he talks of wanting a mosque.

Bilal literally digs his own grave, copying what his mother did and lying down in it to contemplate his life and decisions. Maybe he should honour his mother’s wish. The metaphor of digging your own grave is also applicable as he decides to take on the villagers, knowing there will be conflict.

His main ally turns out to be the village priest. The story also does a good job in reflecting many a Brit’s relationship with religion. The villagers are protective of their church but it is barely used. They feel it is their right to have a place or worship, just in case, so shouldn’t others have the same right? It’s also pointed out that there wouldn’t be so much objection if he were from another religion.

You can regret things you can’t change, too. It’s just a bit more depressing.

Bilal’s auntie comes to stay with them and she doesn’t speak English. There is a lovely side plot where she somehow becomes friends with one of the villagers who is opposing the mosque. Both characters are pushed out their bubbles and there’s a lot to be said for meeting in the middle.

It’s certainly different from the Sofia Khan books, but does contain similar themes and compassion. If you liked those you should definitely give her new book a chance.

No, it had nothing to do with the Hashams’ skin colour. It was the unknown. Unknown people harboured unknown ideas. And ideas could be a dangerous thing.

This Green and Pleasant Land is published by Bonnier Zaffre and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 13th June 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

ATY: 21. A book from one of the polarizing or close call votes

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