The setup is a delight and there are winning set pieces, along with sharply observed depictions of character and community. In these riven times, when country often seems set against the city in mutual misunderstanding, this wise, warm-hearted novel deserves to be shared by reading groups across the cities and shires — and cribbed by The Archers team for plot lines.
It’s an engaging scenario, in which a sleepy parish council instantly fears that the community is about to become a hotbed of fundamentalism. The problem is that Malik’s switch from the urban environment of the Sofia Khan books to a parodic stereotype of an English village results in writing that can become humdrum and flavourless... Malik’s great gift is to present seemingly insoluble issues of faith and intolerance in a light, accessible manner. This Green and Pleasant Land is a laudable attempt to extend her range beyond romantic comedy, though the use of omniscient third-person narration can be ungainly at times.
This Green and Pleasant Land slips down like a cup of milky chai. It has something of the spirit of a 1990s British comedy, as you might expect from an author who made her name with the novel Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, sometimes described as “the Muslim Bridget Jones” (Malik has also worked as Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain’s ghostwriter). Malik writes with an effervescent if slapdash charm (a tighter edit might have brought down its 446 pages) and in doing so, redraws the boundaries of what stories about British Muslims might look like. She’s rather like a contemporary Barbara Pym depicting the circumscribed lives of lovelorn Anglican vicars, bored busybodies and batty elderly women with a wry humour that, as the story progresses, steals upon you with a jolt.