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Shamsie, Kamila

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ISBN 10: 0151010102 / ISBN 13: 9780151010103
Published by Harcourt
Used Condition: Good
From Wonder Book (Frederick, MD, U.S.A.)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Kartography

Publisher: Harcourt

Book Condition:Good

About this title


Crib mates, raised together from birth, narrator Raheen and her best friend Karim dream each other's dreams, finish each other's sentences, speak in a language of anagrams. 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." The night Karim's family migrates from Karachi to London, Raheen knows that "some of my tears were his tears and some of his tears were mine." But as distance and adolescence split them apart, Karim takes refuge in the rationality of maps while Raheen searches for the secret behind her parents' exchange. What she uncovers takes us back two decades to reveal a story not just of a family's turbulent history but that of a country--and brings us forward to a grown-up Raheen and Karim drawn back to each other in the city that is their true home.


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,

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