Soueif, Ahdaf The map of love

ISBN 13: 9780747543671

The map of love

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9780747543671: The map of love
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"The Map of Love" is the story of two intricately intertwined stories separated by a hundred years of history. Lady Anna Winterbourne, recently widowed, travels to Egypt in 1900 where she meets Sharif Pasha al-Barudi, an Egyptian Nationalist, high-born and utterly committed to his country's cause. For Sharif, Anna at first represents the pseudo-benign snobberies of colonialist Britain. For her, Sharif represents the real, secret Egypt. The couple fall in love and marry, but fearfully. Can Anna really turn herself into an Oriental wife? Can Sharif adjust to Anna's Englishness? And will the real world, the unloving world of history and politics, give them a chance to try?

These questions have a powerful significance for the heroine of the book's second story: Isabel Parkman, an American divorcee and a descendant of Anna and Sharif. In 1997, Isabel meets and falls in love with Omar-al-Ghamrawi, a New York-based Egyptian who also has blood links to the Anna-Sharif marriage. Isabel decides to make a trip to Egypt, looking for answers to questions she has scarcely framed yet. She carries with her an old family trunk, which she delivers to Omar's sister Amal in Cairo. In the trunk are the notebooks and journals in which Anna confided the story of her love affair with Sharif and with Egypt. As Isabel, with Amal's help, pieces together the story of Anna's relationship, she finds that it has far more to do with her own than she had realized.

Ahdaf Soueif's triumph in this subtle, wise and moving novel is two-fold: she unerringly illuminates the historical and political intensities that govern even the most personal relationships, but she also makes us understand that "what will survive of usis love". This is a heart-piercing story of two love affairs: one fiercely up-to-date, the other long-ago but no less passionate. It is a story of Empire, of Egypt, a story of the century captured in compelling close-up.

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Review:

Ahdaf Soueif's The Map of Love is a massive family saga, a story that draws its readers into two moments in the complex, troubled history of modern Egypt. The story begins in 1977 in New York. There Isabel Parkman discovers an old trunk full of documents--some in English, some in Arabic--in her dying mother's apartment. Incapable of deciphering this stash by herself, she turns to Omar al-Ghamrawi, a man with whom she is falling in love. And Omar directs her in turn to his sister Amal in Cairo.

Together the two women begin to uncover the stories embedded in the journal of Lady Anna Winterbourne, who traveled to Egypt in 1900 and fell in love with Sharif Pasha al-Barudi, an Egyptian nationalist. To their surprise, they stumble across some unsuspected connections between their own families. Less surprising, perhaps, is the persistence of the very same issues that dogged their ancestors: colonialism, Egyptian nationalism, and the clash of cultures throughout the Middle East. The past, however, does offer some semblance of omniscience:

That is the beauty of the past; there it lies on the table: journals, pictures, a candle-glass, a few books of history. You leave it and come back to it and it waits for you--unchanged. You can turn back the pages, look again at the beginning. You can leaf forward and know the end. And you tell the story that they, the people who lived it, could only tell in part.
With its multiple narratives and ever-shifting perspectives, The Map of Love would seem to cast some doubt on even the most confident historian's version of events. Yet this subtle and reflective tale of love does suggest that the relations between individuals can (sometimes) make a difference. "I am in an English autumn in 1897," Amal confesses at one point, "and Anna's troubled heart lies open before me." Here, perhaps, is a hint about how we should read Soueif's staggering novel, using words as a means to travel through time, space, and identity. --Vicky Lebeau

From the Inside Flap:

Booker Prize Finalist
"Sweeping and evocative--. An unconventional love story."--"The Times (London)
With her first novel, In the Eye of the Sun, Ahdaf Soueif garnered comparisons to Tolstoy, Flaubert, and George Eliot. In her latest novel, which was shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize, she combines the romantic skill of the nineteenth-century novelists with a very modern sense of culture and politics--both sexual and international.
At either end of the twentieth century, two women fall in love with men outside their familiar worlds. In 1901, Anna Winterbourne, recently widowed, leaves England for Egypt, an outpost of the Empire roiling with nationalist sentiment. Far from the comfort of the British colony, she finds herself enraptured by the real Egypt and in love with Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi. Nearly a hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, a divorced American journalist and descendant of Anna and Sharif has fallen in love with Omar al-Ghamrawi, a gifted and difficult Egyptian-American conductor with his own passionate politics. In an attempt to understand her conflicting emotions and to discover the truth behind her heritage, Isabel, too, travels to Egypt, and enlists Omar's sister's help in unravelling the story of Anna and Sharif's love.
Joining the romance and intricate storytelling of A.S. Byatt's Possession and Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, Ahdaf Soueif has once again created a mesmerizing tale of genuine eloquence and lasting importance.

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