Our Book Reviews Online: Top Ten Books of the Year 2015
Lydia, a woman in her early thirties, lives in London. She lacks a purpose and loses herself in a string of affairs. When she meets Rabia, a convert to Islam, the Moslem rituals and the Arabic language offer her a new beginning. Lydia becomes Kauthar. She falls in love with Rafiq, an Iraqi-born doctor, and her life seems complete. But the terrorist attacks of 9/11 tests their relationship. While Kauthar becomes increasingly fundamental in her beliefs, Rafiq returns to war-torn Baghdad to work in a hospital. Kauthar follows her husband – and the consequences are terrifying.
Kauthar charts the life of a white British woman who converts to Islam. The story explores the reasons why and analyses the psychological factors that lead her to distort and misuse her religious faith. Ultimately, Kauthar is a novel about how longing for love can result in violent delusion.
‘Meike Ziervogel brings courage and delicacy, as well as deep cultural and psychological insight, to a terrifying theme. The imagination in impressive service, this is both a necessary and an astonishing novel.’ —Moniza Alvi
‘Meike Ziervogel really gets under the skin of her female protagonist. She has created a searing portrait of one woman’s psychic collapse and descent into religious extremism. A highly readable and timely narrative.’ —Lucy Popescu
‘In a story that is grounded in recent current events, yet profoundly metaphysical and philosophical in the questions it poses about love, faith and aggression, Meike Ziervogel once again raises the bar of contemporary literary fiction.’ —Morag Charlwood
‘This is a novel that cuts into the heart of a modern taboo – the white British female who choose to become a Muslim – with sensitivity and insight… Meike Ziervogel grew up in Germany and came to London to study Arabic; her strong, spare writing cuts to the heart of a shocking story.’ —Kate Saunders, The Times
‘Kauthar, as much an exploration of breakdown and collapse as of the lines between devotion and delusion, faith and fundamentalism, does not shy away from suffering and darkness; instead, as in Magda and Clara’s Daughter, Ziervogel goes bravely to the bleakest points of humanity and illuminates them with her lyrical and enthralling prose.’ —Claire Kohda Hazelton, The Guardian
‘Ziervogel writes with insight and fluency, articulating a profound empathy with those at the extreme reaches of their endurance. Searingly contemporary, Kauthar sketches out a humane and subtle counterpoint to the distorted debate surrounding religious radicalisation, and in doing so is resonant and timely.’ —Lettie Kennedy, The Observer
‘Uniquely qualified to write this tale of a woman’s conversion to Islam, Ziervogel is able to write and speak Arabic and holds an MA in Arabic Literature. Her portrayal of Kauthar’s faith is both sensitively and acutely observed, with fascinating insight into the daily prayers and rituals which make up Islamic life.’ —Jennifer Acton, For Books’ Sake
‘★★★★ An intriguing and intimate read.’ —John Lloyd, The Bookbag
‘Kauthar is a beautiful book, Ziervogel writes as though each word were a deep consideration, though the prose is sparse. Religion is treated with respect and honesty, highlighting the good and the bad that can come from devotion.’ —Alice Farrant, We Love This Book
‘★★★★ Visceral and compelling, Ziervogel draws on the traditions of Islamic and Christian mysticism, and on sharp observations of contemporary society, to give a deeply uncomfortable glimpse into the mind of a misfit-turned-extremist.’ —Juanita Coulson, The Lady