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Good Intentions: ‘Captivating and heartbreaking’ Stylist

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Talking over the phone from Newcastle—he is visiting from London for a friend’s birthday—he explains how he cried at every episode “because it really moved me” and “that’s the kind of person I am”. Ever fallen in love with messy, confusing consequences for everyone involved? Then Good Intentions is for you' Stylist Good Intentions" follows the story of the relationship between Nur, a young British-Pakistani man, and Yasmin, a young British-Sudanese woman. Nur and Yasmina are in love. They've been together for four happy years. But Nur's parents don't know that Yasmina exists. It delves into their relationship, racism in the community and the familial ties. Good Intentions will give a wide audience something to relate to, but even those who cannot find a connection will welcome the candid insight into lives beyond their own. The novel is written delicately and with great honesty and I would not be surprised to discover that it had been written from personal experience. Kasim Ali: I grew up in an environment where I wasn’t able to express emotion otherwise I’d get taken the piss out of, right? Called ‘gay’ or ‘a girl’ or whatever. And then I’d internalise those things as insults, and stop doing the things I wanted to that led to people calling me those insults.

Honesty makes us trust the story, trust the characters and form a bond. We adore Nur like we might a younger brother: at times we empathise, want to take him in a warm embrace, and at other times we would rather give him a damn good throttle.This book was phenomenal. Absolutely brilliant. A philosophical, modern-day classic debut, this novel includes absolutely everything that forms a well-made novel. But I think we should be wary of shaming the women whose enthusiasm, passion and investment keeps the whole industry afloat. And there is also the question of whether for all their visibility, women are yet afforded the same cultural respect as the male novelist. There’s a danger that the novel gets dismissed as a feminised form, especially since the history of the novel, from its 18th-century origins, was rooted in the idea of it as frivolous literature for leisured women who didn’t receive a formal education in science or politics. It was male writers such as Samuel Richardson, as well as a generation of male critics, who were seen to professionalise fiction writing. The only outlier to this trend, Brown suggested, is the Irish writer Rob Doyle, whose second novel, Threshold (2020), is by his own description a “gloves-off, messy exploration of my own damaged male psyche and masculinity itself”. But Doyle believes that as a male novelist writing honestly about sex, “You’re kind of despised. It can feel a bit like having some weird contagion, that you ring a bell when you come into town, and people can clear out.”

Kasim Ali: Yeah. Birmingham, Nottingham and Bradford are places that mean a lot to me. I guess I was writing about the experience I had at university, which was pretentious conversations on ‘what is culture’ and ‘who am I’, while also… smoking some weed. A little like Nur (the protagonist) does in the book, confronting his internal biases. So the cliched ‘first-time author writes about themselves’ model. But there’s three dudes in this book, you don’t know which one is me. I could be any one of them! There’s a bit of me in all the characters I guess really. As I said earlier, one of the major topics discussed in this was the world of technology, and the hardships of the dating world while the technological advancement of online dating is happening simultaneously. Ali presents a topic thoroughly discussed, but said in a way never done before:

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I related to Nur at some parts but was also so frustrated with him... Because we focus on Nur's pov, I found myself failing to see how self-absorbed he was until he was called out for it by the other characters in the story. But no relationship is perfect. For Yasmina, the complexities of family and cultural expectation are something she wants to navigate with Nur by her side. For Nur, the pressures of being the ‘good son’ are suffocating, and soon threaten everything he wants for his future with Yasmina. Can he find a way to offer her everything she deserves? This book had drama, and a lot of it. Relationship dynamics are hard, and Kasim Ali emphasized this throughout the book, giving the reader different situations that feel so human and real that just make you want to stay for the ride.

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