Review: Good Intentions by Kasim Ali (2022)

Blurb

A heart-wrenching and beautifully told debut novel about love, family obligation and finding your way.

Nur and Yasmina are in love
They’ve been together for four happy years
But Nur’s parents don’t know that Yasmina exists

As Nur’s family counts down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, Nur is watching the clock more closely than most: he has made a pact with himself, and with his girlfriend, Yasmina, that at midnight he will finally tell his Pakistani parents the truth. That he has spent years hiding his personal life from them to preserve his image as the golden child. That he has built a life with a woman he loves and she is Black.

Nur wants to be the good son his parents ask him to be, and the good boyfriend Yasmina needs him to be. But as everything he holds dear is challenged, he is forced to ask, is love really a choice for a second-generation immigrant son like him?

Deftly exploring family obligation and racial prejudice alongside the flush of first love, Good Intentions is a captivating and powerful modern love story that announces a thrilling new voice in British fiction.

Review

Many thanks to 4th Estate and the Squadpod for arranging a proof copy for me in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed so many things about Good Intentions, but one of the aspects I loved the most was its nuance. The story feels fresh and modern, and it elegantly negotiates the complexities of Nur’s situation without either getting didactic or simplifying the issues. I did get frustrated with him at times, but he’s a sympathetic protagonist, and he’s doing what he feels is right, however misguidedly. As someone who suffers with anxiety, I thought the sections where Nur experiences struggles with his mental health were really well done – and it was refreshing to see other characters accepting those parts of him.

At its heart, Good Intentions is a great contemporary love story: the relationship between Nur and Yasmina is so realistically portrayed, I absolutely thought of them as real people as I was reading. I love the banter between them, the witty back-and-forth, their utter irritation with each other which strengthens rather than undermines their feelings for each other. Their exchanges are funny and intelligent, and they’re just a wonderful couple to spend time with. Of course, this makes it all the more poignant when they encounter difficulties – we’re rooting for them so hard.

There is so much going on in this book, but it never feels like an effort to read. The story carries you along, and the clever non-linear structure allows us to build up a picture of the relationship in scenes that are both self-contained and part of a whole. It’s very intelligent writing, and I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Good Intentions by Kasim Ali is published by 4th Estate and is available to purchase here.

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