Set in 1950s Sudan, LYRICS ALLEY is the story of the powerful and sprawling Abuzied dynasty. With Mahmood Bey at its helm, the family can do no wrong. But when Mahmood's son, Nur - the brilliant, charming heir to his business empire - suffers a near-fatal accident, his hopes of university and a glittering future are dashed. Subsequently, his betrothal to his cousin and sweetheart, Soraya is broken off, another tragedy that he is almost unable to bear. As British rule is coming to an end, and the country is torn between modernising influences and the call of traditions past, the family is divided. Mahmood's second wife, Nabilah, longs to return to Egypt and leave behind her the dust of 'backward-looking' Sudan. His first wife, Waheeba, lives traditionally behind veils and closed doors and resents Nabilah's influence on Mahmood. Meanwhile, Nur must find a way to live again in the world and find peace. Moving from the villages of Sudan to cosmopolitan Cairo and a decimated post-colonial Britain, this is a sweeping tale of loss, faith and reconciliation.
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Leila Aboulela was born in 1964 in Cairo and grew up in Khartoum. She came to England to study at the LSE and now lives between Doha and Aberdeen.Review:
'The scattered but powerful Abuzeid family are a force in 1950s Sudan. When the patriarch's son is injured, everything must change. A thought provoking glimpse into an unfamiliar society as old ways give way to new.' WOMAN & HOME 'an assured and highly readable portrait of a family in flux and two societies - Sudan and Egypt - on the cusp of momentous changes...Lyrics Alley is an evocative description of the struggle between tradition and modernization, a conflict that is still being fought in present-day Islamic culture.' NEW INTERNATIONALIST 'Soraya is smitten with her cousin, Nur, heir to the family business but everything falls apart when he suffers a near-fatal injury and the betrothal is called off. In beautiful subtle prose Aboulela reveals the emotional consequences of their separation, and how the couple must renegotiate their futures...Aboulela explores themes of love, faith and divided families with tender restraint.' MARIE CLAIRE 'haunting...Vividly evoking the alleyways of Sudan, Egypt and Britain, this novel also movingly and meticulously traces the hidden pathways of the mind and heart with all its anger, shame, hate and love.' -- Anita Sethi THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'Leila Aboulela has created a story for all the senses, one to be savoured and enjoyed.' FINANCIAL TIMES 'a panoramic exposition of a country on the brink of independence, a splendid representation of upper class Sudanese life, and a fascinating exploration of the lives of women...Lyrics Alley is gripping and meticulously researched.' MSLEXIA 'Its themes include desire, love, poetry, popular music, film, privilege and poverty. At the core is the dilemma of a culture torn between the divergent calls of tradition and modernity. This is an unprecedented novel that breaks new ground in writing about Sudanese society at the time of independence...this is a novel where human stories are writ large in the engaging foreground, with politics and history alluded to with almost demure elegance as part of the scenic backdrop.' -- Rachel Holmes, Head of Literature and Spoken Word Southbank Centre 'In many respects, Aboulela's family tale is a universal one... Understanding all too well how a family can shape an individual's destiny is what gives her tale its humanity... But it is in her vivid, beautifully original portrayals of battling wives, Nabilah and Waheeba, that her real genius lies.' THE HERALD (Glasgow) 'the graceful and elegantly told saga of the powerful and affluent Abuzeid family...The book explores tensions and contradictions within Islam and Sudan still relevant today, in particular those that affect women...Aboulela writes with a light touch. Her sensitivity towards and understanding of her characters' motives ensure that they are people first and never become mere schematic metaphors...This beautiful book is testament to what might have been as well as what might still be.' -- Jane Charteris LITERARY REVIEW 'Lyrics Alley is the evocative story of an affluent Sudanese family shaken by the shifting powers in their country... As British rule nears its end, the country is torn between modernising influences and past traditions - a conflict reflected in the growing tensions between Mahmoud's two wives. It is a tale of desire, loss, despair and reconciliation.' THE MIDDLE EAST 'Aboulela's skill is in teasing out nuance in different contexts, while making the reader care about her characters as individuals... The author succeeds in creating characters which convince us; they are as imperfect, unpredictable and endearing as real life.' TLS 'Set in 1950s Sudan, Leila Aboulela's latest novel, Lyrics Alley a family saga about a poet, beautifully elaborates on how tragedy can bring a gift in its wake.' -- Mariella Frostrup PSYCHOLOGIES 'a powerful Sudanese family saga of the 1950s, inspired by the life of her poet uncle...A great read, thoroughly reserached, and now shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' South Asia and Europe Best Book Prize.' BANIPAL - LIBYAN FICTION 'Aboulela paints the history that unfolds behind the family upheaval with a delicate hand...she offers characters that absorb and fascinate...Particularly well-drawn is the battle over whether to circumcise the family's daughters...its power lies in its depiction of humanity; the anguished rage of a mother at what has been done to her daughter, the vindictive envy of the old wife passed over for the new, a child's bewildered pain and fear.' THE ECONOMIST 'The characters are astutely shaded, and their varying relations to Islam are beautifully rendered. The novel's sense of internal timing is excellent, and the prose is smooth and clear. As Nur's poem "Eid Crescent" has it: "Let me narrate the story of two souls / Whose love was struck by the evil eye, / In a twist which Fate had hidden..." As a tale of stricken love between two souls, Lyrics Alley is impressive.' THE GUARDIAN
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