Kamila Shamsie Kartography

ISBN 13: 9780747557302

Kartography

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9780747557302: Kartography
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What is the moment, that exact moment when everything changes and the friends you have been, become the lovers you might be? Soul mates from birth, Karim and Raheen finish one another's sentences, speak in anagrams and lie spine to spine as children. They are irrevocably bound to one another and to Karachi, Pakistan. It beats in their hearts - violent, polluted, corrupt, vibrant, brave and ultimately, home. However, Raheen is fiercely loyal and naively blinkered and she resents Karim's need to map their city, his need to name its streets and to expand the privileged world they know. When Karim is forced to leave for London their differences of opinion become a painful quarrel. As the years go by they let a barrier of silence build between them until, finally, they are brought together during a dry summer of strikes and ethnic violence and their relationship is poised between strained friendship and fated love. Impassioned and touching, "Kartography" is a love song to Karachi. In her extraordinary new novel, Kamila Shamsie shows us that whatever happens in the world, we must never forget the complicated war in our own hearts.

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Review:

Kartography is Kamila Shamsie's impressive third novel. At its heart is a traditional love story-cum-family saga. Karim and Raheen are anagram-swapping "fated friends." Until the age of 13, when Karim moved to London, they were virtually raised as brother and sister. Their parents had once been engaged to each other. The unravelling of quite why this matrimonial square dance occurred is juxtaposed with Karim and Raheen's own, and decidedly more protracted, romance.

As the title suggests, mapping--geographical, political and emotional--is central to the book. The "comic" spelling is a wry allusion to its setting: the troubled Pakistani city of Karachi, a place that, as Karim observes, worships "at the altar of K." Karim, Raheen and their friends Sonia and Zia all belong to the privileged Karachi elite. Born on the right "side of the Clifton Bridge" they seem immune from Karachi's endemic corruption, violence, and religious and ethnic intolerance but they and their families, like the rest of the city's inhabitants, have all been horrifically scarred by events of the 1971 civil war.

Like Austen, or perhaps more accurately Forster, Shamsie is wonderfully adept at capturing the petty rivalries and social games of Pakistan's highly stratified bourgeoisie society--Zia's house is sagely described as "always full of people worth cultivating, rather than people worth having in your home." There are a few (well-acknowledged) nods to Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and even Homer's Odyssey gets a look in but Shamsie wears her learning lightly. She manages to make Karim and Raheen's journey to toward engagement, both with the realities of Karachi and with each other, into a profound meditation on the nature of love, storytelling and politics. --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk

From the Back Cover:

"[Shamsie] packs her story with the playful evidence of her high-flying intelligence." -- San Francisco Chronicle

Raised together from birth, Raheen and her best friend Karim dream each other's dreams and finish each other's sentences. They share an idyllic childhood in upper-class Karachi with parents who are also best friends, even once engaged to the other until they rematched in what they jokingly call "the fiancee swap." But when Karim's family migrates from Pakistan to London, distance and adolescence split the friends apart. Karim takes refuge in the rationality of maps while Raheen searches for the secret behind her parents' exchange. She uncovers a story not just of a family's turbulent history but that of a country -- and finds herself poised between strained friendship and fated love with Karim.

"This 30-year-old has been described as a young Anita Desai, and her third book, about childhood, love, life and high society in Karachi during the turbulent 1990s is worth all the prepublication fuss." - Harper's Bazaar

Kamila Shamsie, author of two previous novels, has been twice shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize and named by the Orange Prize Futures as one of "21 writers for the 21st century.” She lives in London and Karachi, and serves as Visiting Professor of English at Hamilton College.

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