“In the end, men are just men, neither good nor bad.”
This Shall Be A House Of Peace by Phil Halton explores the aftermath of the collapse of Afghanistan’s soviet backed government. The Mullah, a teacher in an Afghan village, leads a group of students who have been left behind from the civil war. The bravery of this man soon gets noticed by the village who ask him for help – something that will change the balance of power within their country. What will he encounter on his journey? Will the outcome be the one which the village hope for?
Phil has worked around the world as a soldier and security consultant and has a range of experience in conflict zones and in Afghanistan itself, making this book a truly memorable experience and one I’m confident will be lodged into Phil’s heart.
From the word ‘go’, you know this book will be heavily religious. I’m not religious myself, but I kept an open mind while reading this book, especially since the nature of it is so interesting, and written from Phil’s own experiences. The opening chapters really make you think about life in less fortunate countries and how dangerous it is each day for the residents of these towns. Straight away, Phil describes how difficult the simplest of tasks are, the things that we would take for granted, such as eating a meal and having a quick trip down to the shops. A real eye opener and a strong opening to the book. It really puts things into perspective and makes you realise just how fortunate a lot of us are.
I came across a number of terms I didn’t understand whilst reading the book, starting right from chapter 1. This didn’t really harm my experience of the story because Phil has kindly included a glossary of these unfamiliar terms in the back of the book. However, with the copy of the book I have being a Kindle copy, it was a bit annoying having to go back and forth just to find out the meaning of these terms. I ended up Googling them instead to try and save a bit of time and to keep track of which page I was on. It didn’t hinder the book too much, but it made the reading process a little slow at times.
The story starts by focusing on two brothers, Wasif and Amin. It’s clear to see that they have a strong brotherly bond. Wasif will do whatever he can to help his sibling and Amin trusts Wasif to watch over him and keep him safe. At the beginning of the book, we see an unfortunate event where Amin takes a bit of a beating. He needs his brother and proceeds to follow him wherever he goes to feel secure after this. Again, you’re reminded that the story is very real thanks to Phil’s inside view of Afghanistan, and his description within this really opens your eyes. You find yourself in the shoes of a number of characters through the beginning of the book and each one has such a different view on things. Phil captured some very powerful things in his words.
It’s really easy to build up an image of the surroundings from a particular place from Phil’s description. It’s so detailed and realistic that it’s quite apparent in a way that Phil has first-hand experience in areas like this. He’s able to pass this knowledge onto his characters and in turn, deliver an unforgettable experience to his readers.
“The Mullah repeated something that his own father had often said. ‘An unloaded gun makes two people afraid.'”
Each chapter has been really well edited. It’s kind of like each one is a story in itself. It’s easy to imagine yourself in a scene, even if there are some unfamiliar terms. We can easily feel the emotions of the characters as we are always there on their journey. I noticed this pretty early on in the book and picked up on it more and more the further into the book I got.
The religious side of things was a little much for my taste, but again it is to be expected with a book of this nature. I still think the opening to the book was strong and it was clear there was so much more to explore as we get deeper and deeper into the novel and story itself.
The Mullah (a term of respect for an educated, religious man) is someone who the rest of the characters look up to. He’s someone that the needy go to when they need help and he is someone who will do whatever he can to care for his students. I think the generosity of this particular character is one of the reasons why this story touches you. It’s heartwarming to see the kinds of things this character does to help those who need it, even though he seems like a tough guy on the outside.
We follow this character’s journey to find a man called Tarak. He’s a dangerous man which makes the idea of a group of religious, law-abiding citizens finding him, a nail biting experience. Here, we notice the bravery of the Mullah as he goes to find and talk to Tarak – alone. Now, even though Tarak is the enemy here, I think Phil’s creation of this character is fantastic – he’s done a great job of building up a fear of a character so early on, not just from our characters, but us as readers too. I sure wouldn’t want to cross him!
As the Mullah is on his journey and helping yet more people in process, we revisit Wasif, Amin and the group back at the madrassa as well as the stories of other characters. It’s really interesting to see how different characters are coping in these difficult times – how a real life person would have to deal with the difficulties in Afghanistan at this time.
“How is it that my life has brought me here, chained to a wall by my friends? He could shout for them, but he knew that they would not come.”
As we progress through the story, things become much more serious. We see deaths and violence, and not the warm friendliness of the madrassa like we saw at the start of the book. A lot of characters are now involved, taking out bandits and attempting to keep the area secure and safe from harm. Some of these scenes are quite shocking and horrific, but Phil has surprised me with the amount of detail here. He’s done a terrific job of making you feel every emotion possible, forcing you to become even more invested into the story than before.
The middle of the story also taught me a lot about the religion of our characters, including how these people pray and how they greet and converse with one another. We learn about different rituals and the rules these people live by. Putting all this next to the story strengthens it further and the more we learn, the more intriguing the build up to the ending of the story becomes.
There are times where we see a change in the Mullah’s personality as he takes more charge and control. We also see a big change in Wasif and Amin. Seeing them turn and destroy a shopkeeper’s stall took me back to the beginning of the book, thinking back to how they were afraid and always looking to help out where they could. It seems they’ll do anything to preserve what is right for their faith and will go to great measures to protect those people close to them.
We continue to follow the group of men on their dangerous journey and it’s clear how much it’s taking its toll on their health and well being. However, they have a job to do and carrying out their task is of highest importance. It’s difficult to go into too much detail about the end of the story as it seems quite easy to give away a lot of the detail. I’ll keep it short but sweet.
The ending of the book really struck a chord. It’s emotional, heartbreaking and a little horrifying. But even so, it makes you think hard about what is right in life. It’s clear just how dangerous countries like this are, and what it still going on today while we’re all sitting around the dinner table sharing meals with our families or going on holidays to luxurious places.
If you find yourself reading this book or if it is something that you want to pick up after reading this review, bear this in mind. It may make you think twice about things afterwards. Trust and loyalty is a big thing. The end scene may be tough to read, especially if you are invested in the story. Even so, I must congratulate Phil on his show-stopping conclusion.
This Shall Be A House Of Peace was a really well put together book with a strong, emotional story that will be difficult to forget. Phil has done a really great job here. However, as much as I really liked how Phil delivered his story and each chapter, I felt it was, again, very heavily religious. This is purely a matter of opinion but it was sometimes difficult to stay focused on the story line when I was also trying to fathom out religious terms and scenes.
I think for some, this may really make the story stand out for them. I believe it’s something to look into if you’re looking for a new read that may not necessarily be something you’d pick up off a shelf at first glance. I’m looking forward to reading Phil’s future projects and I’m sure they’ll be written just as well as this book was!
A big thank you to Phil for submitting his book to our book club for review! You can purchase This Shall Be A House Of Peace from Amazon, available on Kindle or paperback. 📚 Follow Phil over on Twitter for more updates!
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