As she puts it in her book: “To swirl in a morass of suppositions and half-truths seemed safer, in London of 2015, than to hear what a youth theatre group born and raised alongside those girls had to say.”
By the end the reader is inclined to agree with her. It was fear of a public outcry that led Sajid Javid, as home secretary, to prevent Begum from returning to Britain. A mistake: she should come back to face trial, the better to understand how girls like her become radicalised in the first place. Most of these Isis brides still languish in camps across the Middle East, waiting for their home countries to decide on their fates. For those interested in understanding them, this book is essential reading.
When Greene, FBI agent turned Isis wife, returns home, she receives a short two-year sentence to atone for her terrorist romance. But Begum, found pregnant and languishing in a camp aged 19, is stripped of her UK citizenship. Dalliances with terror, like everything else, have different consequences for different women; the mastery of Guest House for Young Widows is to show us just how distinct and devastating each can be.