• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    Matthew on [825] Paradise Lost -John…
    Anokatony on [825] Paradise Lost -John…
    Matthew on The King’s English Books…
    Katie Marie on The King’s English Books…
    lazyhaze on Reading Kafka’s “T…
    Buried In Print on Reading Kafka’s “T…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 991,315 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,661 other followers

Overdue

1map

“—and there, on the table under her bedroom window, lies the voice that has set her dreaming again. Frangments of a life lived a long, long time ago. Across a hundred years the woman’s voice speaks to her–so clearly that she cannot believe it is not possible to pick up her pen and answer.”

A novel begins in midsentence intimidates me. It’s the telltale sign of a multi-narrative story that will unfold obliquely. Maybe this is why I have put The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif off for a long time. It was shortlisted for Booker prize in 1999 (the winner that year went to Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee). It’s one of those books in which a story unfolds within another story. Although a key part of the novel’s maturity is its ability to face up squarely to both politics and love, the structure of the book takes some patience getting used to. It’s like hearing a story from six degree of separation, with snippets and fragments of details supplemented later. Indeed the history and mystery are encountered piecemeal by the reader, who is to fit together the intersecting stories at the same pace as the characters. The narrative voice switches constantly between Anna’s journal (a century ago), Sharif’s sister’s journal (in the present), Amal’s inner musings or a simple third person narrator. This inconsistency marks the pace of the book. In spite of this constant shift in voices, I find The Map of Love very accessible. Some parts are harder to read because of the Arabic expressions; and the book’s richness of detail calls for a slower more attentive pace. Written in English by an Egyptian-born writer, this intricately plotted novel is set in the present and deeply immersed in the past. It is both a history lesson and a heart-racing romance that walks the fine line between an “orientalist” perspective and an attitude that represents Egyptians and their culture from their own point of view.

I’m indebted to the Egyptian gentleman who recommended this book to me while we were at breakfast at the hotel this morning. He saw that I was reading Borges and asked if I might be interested in reading something written an Egyptian. See how serendipitously books find the readers?

8 Responses

  1. that’s great. I seriously find your writing style real good. hope we can be friends x

    • Thanks Patricia. I haven’t maintained the link page for a long time as many bloggers have discontinued their blogs. I usually read the blogs through my reader program.

  2. I love books that do this – three stories from different times/narrators that somehow tie in at the end. I know it’s been done often, but it almost always works for me.

    I’m curious to hear more about the ‘Arabic expressions’ – do you have an excerpt so we can better understand?

    • Yes there are stories within stories here reader’s patience is appreciated. She uses a lot of Arabic expressions in the appropriate context. She also provides a glossary of terms at the end of the book so you won’t have to worry about not understanding the expressions. Arabic, for example, has at least 10 terms for different meanings for love. I find that intriguing and very similar to my native tongue, Chinese.

  3. I’m so glad to see that you positively reviewed this book. I love it, but I rarely see it discussed! Thanks!

  4. I love the story of how you found this book. It will forever be attached to your memory of the book too.

    • The premise is somewhat overwrought, but the history and culture unfolded are just so rich. Once you get a hold of the different narratives over time, it’s a beautiful story that transcends time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: