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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 tw 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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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 tw 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.

30 review for The Map of Love

  1. 5 out of 5

    Niledaughter

    I loved this book and I enjoyed reading it so much!, I ranked it as 5 even I know that some parts at the beginning may seem boring or confusing because of the multiple narrators & the jumping through time; back & forward , but indeed once I got caught with the protagonists..I simply loved them ,lived with them and shared their joy & pain! It is a brilliant analysis (political , historical ,economical, cultural & social) of Egypt - who is the actual heroine in my opinion - within 100 years , and t I loved this book and I enjoyed reading it so much!, I ranked it as 5 even I know that some parts at the beginning may seem boring or confusing because of the multiple narrators & the jumping through time; back & forward , but indeed once I got caught with the protagonists..I simply loved them ,lived with them and shared their joy & pain! It is a brilliant analysis (political , historical ,economical, cultural & social) of Egypt - who is the actual heroine in my opinion - within 100 years , and the focus is on the beginning & the end of the 20th century : presenting an interesting comparisons among colonial policies effects , contemporary corruption & autocratic administration ones’ ! it is rare for me to absorb that from a fiction book ! . Also the novel presents a very touching , romantic & a full of passion love story that captured my heart !

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "How can it be that a set of the shoulders, the rhythm of a stride, the shadow of a strand of hair falling on a forehead can cause the tides of the heart to ebb and to flow?" Ah, the throes of love. When her husband dies, a woman leaves England for Egypt, lured by paintings which helped her grieve. She enters Egypt as the resistance fights against British occupation. She falls in love with an Egyptian politician during a time when a woman was ostracized by her European community for being with an "How can it be that a set of the shoulders, the rhythm of a stride, the shadow of a strand of hair falling on a forehead can cause the tides of the heart to ebb and to flow?" Ah, the throes of love. When her husband dies, a woman leaves England for Egypt, lured by paintings which helped her grieve. She enters Egypt as the resistance fights against British occupation. She falls in love with an Egyptian politician during a time when a woman was ostracized by her European community for being with an Egyptian, albeit a wealthy, titled, one. One hundred years later, Anna's great-granddaughter, Isabel, an American, finds her great-grandmother's journals and enters her world of love. She cannot, however, translate the journals written in Arabic, so she enlists the help of, Amal. Amal is an Arab woman, separated from her husband and children, who returns to Egypt after years living abroad. Amal doesn't know she is connected to Isabel until she starts to read the journals of Anna Winterbourne. If this all seems intricate, it is because the narrative itself is weaved intricately; maybe a bit too ambitious at times. It illustrates political occasions over a century and ends in 1998, a year after the massacre near Luxor. This novel was a Booker Prize finalist and one can tell by the sprawl of different perspectives, the play with time, the political history interwoven, and the cultural maneuver embodied in interchanging writing styles throughout chapters. In other words, be very attentive when reading, or else risk being lost. I'll always fall for a love story immersed in politics and social disparities, a story of love that spans cultures. And I fell for this one, through the journals of Anna, through Isabel's love affair, even through Amal's daring brush with a past love. I fell for the poetry included before each chapter, poetry from Aidoo, Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The face of all the world is changed, I think Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Last fall my wife read about the BBC/Fox production of Taboo starring Tom Hardy and an amazing supporting cast. What could possibly fail? Well, we waited for all the episodes to air and having recorded them sat to binge. Along the way I noticed Guardian headlines bemoaning the show. My best friend who doesn't believe in dvr dismissed the show as macho mumblecore. Still, I harbored hope. What an utter waste Taboo proved. So I went to Cincinnati the other day to buy books. I found a nice copy and l Last fall my wife read about the BBC/Fox production of Taboo starring Tom Hardy and an amazing supporting cast. What could possibly fail? Well, we waited for all the episodes to air and having recorded them sat to binge. Along the way I noticed Guardian headlines bemoaning the show. My best friend who doesn't believe in dvr dismissed the show as macho mumblecore. Still, I harbored hope. What an utter waste Taboo proved. So I went to Cincinnati the other day to buy books. I found a nice copy and looked forward to settling down with what had been described by a GR friend as (A.S. Byatt's) Possession in Egypt. The weather turned really cold yesterday and I thought why not? Well, 516 pages later, I do not understand the parallel. There are two story lines, almost a century apart. There are journals and letters. The troubled travails of Egypt are explored through the casual racism of the British Occupation and the contemporary (circa 1999) fears of US/Israeli hegemony in the region. Most of this is approached obliquely, though the resistance to Mubarak is balanced with fears of the jihadi. There are mirrored situations where love conquers all and I felt my chest ache from repetitive sighing. This wasn't for me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    One of my favorite books - it has everything you could want - romance, Egypt, kidnapping, desserts, stars, England, illigitamate children, brooding academic-types, sexy political dissidents, bold women, multi-cultural challenges, contemporary politics, turn-of-the-20th-century politics, luxe, fabric, fashion, trunks with old letters, family homes, lattice - shiveringly good...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    It's midnight at the Oasis. The air is dry and warm, scented of Jasmine and a beautiful, spunky blonde Englishwoman in drag bewitches the sensitive, progressive Egyptian man in the shadow of the great ruins in one of several highly cinematic encounters written several decades too late for Omar Sharif and Julie Christie to play the protagonists. I didn't hate this book (though it takes several strange, unadvised turns--at least once into a bizarre and unresolved issue of incest), but the framework It's midnight at the Oasis. The air is dry and warm, scented of Jasmine and a beautiful, spunky blonde Englishwoman in drag bewitches the sensitive, progressive Egyptian man in the shadow of the great ruins in one of several highly cinematic encounters written several decades too late for Omar Sharif and Julie Christie to play the protagonists. I didn't hate this book (though it takes several strange, unadvised turns--at least once into a bizarre and unresolved issue of incest), but the framework (family saga+sex+politics)is pretty trite. If Isabel Allende married a Muslim, moved to Cairo and tried mimic E.M. Forster, this is probably what you'd get. There is always at least one gem in the Booker shortlists . . . this was not one of them.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    A finalist for the Booker Prize when it was published in 1999, this novel of love and international politics set in Egypt is also a rich and rewarding mix of postmodern, post-colonial, and Victorian-era storytelling. In the scale of its romantic ambitions, it reminded me often of "The English Patient," and it cries out for a similar film adaptation to bring it visually to life. Soueif evokes several imaginative worlds, ranging from the Sinai deserts of a century ago to modern-day Cairo. Narrated A finalist for the Booker Prize when it was published in 1999, this novel of love and international politics set in Egypt is also a rich and rewarding mix of postmodern, post-colonial, and Victorian-era storytelling. In the scale of its romantic ambitions, it reminded me often of "The English Patient," and it cries out for a similar film adaptation to bring it visually to life. Soueif evokes several imaginative worlds, ranging from the Sinai deserts of a century ago to modern-day Cairo. Narrated from the point of view of its women characters, her story explores the relationship between the politically driven affairs of men and the sanctuary of home and hearth where women and children live their lives. Thus the story traces both the struggle for power and the strongest urges of the heart, a compelling combination. Told mostly in the form of fragments of text - journal entries and letters - the narrative harks back to the 18th-century epistolary novel. We also get multiple narrators, mostly filtered through the perspective of its central character, a middle-aged woman living in Cairo in the late 1990s. The story she tells takes place in the years before WWI and concerns a love affair between an English widow and a wealthy, influential Egyptian man, who is 16 years older, all of it set against the British occupation of Egypt and the impact of European colonialism on a nation with thousands of years of culture and history. As the novel shifts to the present, it describes the modern-day aftermath of that period of history in the continuing interference of the West in the Middle East and the growth of Islamist and secular extremism that has emerged in response to it. Meanwhile, the domestic world of women, bound in its traditions of caring for home and children, continues to guide their energies and concerns and provides sanctuary from the political strife that surges around them. 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. For example, through discussions of early Jewish settlements in Palestine, the reader gets an Egyptian perspective of historical developments that were to lead to the creation of the state of Israel a half century later. A glossary at the back of the book helps with reading through sections of the novel that incorporate Arabic expressions, idioms, and historical references. Plan on taking a while to read this book - unless you intend to skip over the more demanding parts. It evokes a time and a world that is only somewhat familiar, given what we know of it from film and the media, and the book's richness of detail calls for a slower more attentive pace.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Edita

    "I watch and listen, helpless to help. There is no point in saying ‘This, too, shall pass.’ For a time, we do not even want it to pass. We hold on to grief, fearing that its lifting will be the final betrayal." "I watch and listen, helpless to help. There is no point in saying ‘This, too, shall pass.’ For a time, we do not even want it to pass. We hold on to grief, fearing that its lifting will be the final betrayal."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jodi McMaster

    The only reason this gets a three is because it was an interesting journey into the world view of another, and I enjoyed it while I was reading it. However, the morning after I finished it, I realized that although the interposition and parallelism of the the past and present was quite well done, the characters were flat. All the protagonists are admirable and all get along famously (including sisters, brothers, and all manner of in-laws); all conflict and pain is caused by the outsiders: the Br The only reason this gets a three is because it was an interesting journey into the world view of another, and I enjoyed it while I was reading it. However, the morning after I finished it, I realized that although the interposition and parallelism of the the past and present was quite well done, the characters were flat. All the protagonists are admirable and all get along famously (including sisters, brothers, and all manner of in-laws); all conflict and pain is caused by the outsiders: the British colonial government, the Turks, the Israelis, the Egyptian collaborators. The hareem is a tranquil haven where the women are well-cared for and equal; the Quran is never misused for violence. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women are freakishly dysfunctional compared to the wonderworld of domestic life shown here. I have no doubt that all of the antagonists portrayed in the book inflicted cruelties and indignities upon the group represented by the protagonists, but the book would have been far more compelling if the heroes weren't Disneyish.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    2.5* The book started as 4* but ended as a 2*. When I read the synopsis I thought I was going to love it. It ticked all the right boxes : a love story set in Egypt, a country I really wanted to know more about, the use of letters and diaries to tell the story, two parallel stories set at different points in time. I loved Anna's story up to the point she got married and moved together with Layla and Sharif's mother. I was hopping for a more passionate relationship and I thought the romance story w 2.5* The book started as 4* but ended as a 2*. When I read the synopsis I thought I was going to love it. It ticked all the right boxes : a love story set in Egypt, a country I really wanted to know more about, the use of letters and diaries to tell the story, two parallel stories set at different points in time. I loved Anna's story up to the point she got married and moved together with Layla and Sharif's mother. I was hopping for a more passionate relationship and I thought the romance story was not developed enough. Also, i believe that it is impossible for Anna to be so great friends with everybody from the Harem( from Layla to Sharif's mother). No cultural clashes whatsoever...Hard to believe that. Also, there was no difficulty for Anna to adapt to the life in Egypt with her husband. I would have liked the book to discuss more about the cultural aspects of relationship. After the middle of the book I felt that all the dialog and all the new characters were there only to introduce a political idea/problem. Although I enjoyed to learn more about the Egyptian history I did not fell that I got a clear idea of the events that happened during the time the two stories were set. I though the romance-history lesson was structured quite poorly and I did not clearly understand the message of the book. The transition from one time to another was sometimes messy. There were too many narrators: Anna, Isabel, Amal, Layla and Sharif. It made me fail to care for any of the characters. Some of the plot twists, such as the unresolved possible incest and the love interest of Amal were unnecessary an somewhat bizarre. As a result, despite of an interesting format, the story did not succeed to engage me emotionally and I did not care about the characters' evolution and relationships. I was bored many times and the last 200 pages were a pain to finish.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    History and political analysis just the way I like it - coated with compelling fiction. The romanticism and lushness of the prose threw me at first, but suited the story well and won me over. This book uses connected love stories to examine Egyptian nationalism in the face of British colonialism in the early 1900s. This opens out into suches themes as broader colonialism, the Arabic language, and early Zionism. While not perfect (sometimes hard to sustain the breathlessness and the ending didn't q History and political analysis just the way I like it - coated with compelling fiction. The romanticism and lushness of the prose threw me at first, but suited the story well and won me over. This book uses connected love stories to examine Egyptian nationalism in the face of British colonialism in the early 1900s. This opens out into suches themes as broader colonialism, the Arabic language, and early Zionism. While not perfect (sometimes hard to sustain the breathlessness and the ending didn't quite do it for me), I found this novel lovely, gripping, and filled with enormously charming characters. I am now dying to spend time in Cairo. And to solve all the problems of our postcolonial world. That too.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Very disappointing. A young American widow, Isabel, visits Egypt in the last 90's to pursue a story on the meaning of the Millenium for the Middle East and to expore the history of her grandmother, Anna, who married an Egyptian at the turn of the 20th century. The development of Anna's love for Sharif and bonds with his sister is told through letters and journals, with much background about the politics of Egypt's movement toward independence from the British. Isabel's developing love for an Egy Very disappointing. A young American widow, Isabel, visits Egypt in the last 90's to pursue a story on the meaning of the Millenium for the Middle East and to expore the history of her grandmother, Anna, who married an Egyptian at the turn of the 20th century. The development of Anna's love for Sharif and bonds with his sister is told through letters and journals, with much background about the politics of Egypt's movement toward independence from the British. Isabel's developing love for an Egyptian composer in New York and friendship with his sister who hosts her stay is a parallel story, in this case with the background of the modern turmoil in the Middle East. Despite the prospect of an interesting format, the story did not engage me emotionally in the evolution of the human relationships or in the indirect coverage of history and culture. There was little passion in the depiction of the love relationships, nothing elucidating about the inevitable cultural conflicts and challenges, and what dialog is included was inadequate to bring the characters alive. In sum, I found the book boring.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nada

    I read the Arabic translation by DR. Fatma Mousa, Ahdaf's mother. And it seemed to me that the book was originally written in such glorious Arabic. I am still willing to read the original ENglish and I expect it to be as beautifully written as the translation. As far as the drama is concerned, the story is enchanting. The moments I spent with the book, I was completely taken into other worlds. Now that I have finished the book today, I have a feeling of bitterness because I will read no more of I read the Arabic translation by DR. Fatma Mousa, Ahdaf's mother. And it seemed to me that the book was originally written in such glorious Arabic. I am still willing to read the original ENglish and I expect it to be as beautifully written as the translation. As far as the drama is concerned, the story is enchanting. The moments I spent with the book, I was completely taken into other worlds. Now that I have finished the book today, I have a feeling of bitterness because I will read no more of Anna or Laila or even Amal. I also have to admit that I learnt a good deal about the history of Egypt at the beginning of the 19th centery. And this is what I love about historical fiction. It's about getting a sense of life in the past instead of just learning dry facts or boring analysis. Chapeau Ahdaf. I wish I could get a copy of your book where every uttrance is written in the language you said it was spoken in.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is story of Isabel Parkman who is in search of the roots of her Egyptian ancestry. Her mother, lady Anna Winterbourne travels to Egypt in 1900 and falls in love with Sharif, an Egyptian Nationalist who defy his own costumes by marrying an English lady. The story has several narrators and the plot is alternated between past and present times. Even so, the author knows how to keep our attention into the plot since her narrative naturally flows the pace of the events.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Noor Al-Zubaidi

    The beginning was slow, but thankfully I was fairly warned. It was interesting from the very start and it remained so until the end. How the author wrote the parts of the 20th century, I felt I was reading a classic. Many issues are addressed, and that taught me a lot about history which I'm grateful for. The going back and forth between two periods of time can be a bit confusing but it was great at the same time. I'm always impatient to know what's happening in the other time era, and I liked a l The beginning was slow, but thankfully I was fairly warned. It was interesting from the very start and it remained so until the end. How the author wrote the parts of the 20th century, I felt I was reading a classic. Many issues are addressed, and that taught me a lot about history which I'm grateful for. The going back and forth between two periods of time can be a bit confusing but it was great at the same time. I'm always impatient to know what's happening in the other time era, and I liked a lot of quotes in the book but I was reading too fast to stop and write them down. The Map of Love made me think a lot, about life, the future and a lot of other little things. When Amal was thinking how different Anna's life was from hers, I wondered how I never compared my life to the heroine's because they couldn't more different. There were a few things I didn't understand, and of course a few objections. Those couldn't be helped.

  15. 4 out of 5

    JG (Introverted Reader)

    The Map of Love tells two stories. Primarily, it is about Anna Winterbourne, living in the early 1900s, and her fascination with Egypt. In the present, Isabel Parkman and Amal al-Ghamrawi have found a trunk of Anna’s journals and letters and set out to piece together her story, while living their own. The writing in this book was beautiful. There were some parts where the author seemed to be trying to show what a colorful, vibrant place her Egypt is and those just glowed. But my problem with beau The Map of Love tells two stories. Primarily, it is about Anna Winterbourne, living in the early 1900s, and her fascination with Egypt. In the present, Isabel Parkman and Amal al-Ghamrawi have found a trunk of Anna’s journals and letters and set out to piece together her story, while living their own. The writing in this book was beautiful. There were some parts where the author seemed to be trying to show what a colorful, vibrant place her Egypt is and those just glowed. But my problem with beautiful writing is that I very often get bogged down and get bored and wish I could just get on with the story. I wish it didn’t happen, but it does. That happened for me here. I really enjoyed reading Anna’s story. She’s an interesting, brave woman who isn’t afraid to break out of the mold that’s been made for her. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stand Isabel and I was indifferent to Amal. I’m not exactly sure what the point of the book was. There definitely was a message, I just can’t decide how to take it. As an American reading a book by an Egyptian author, I’m afraid of misreading something. But, right or wrong, what I took away was the author trying to tell me that there’s more to her country than what I see in the news, and the problems that exist began in colonial times under British rule, but now under their own rule they aren’t doing any better. The poor are still oppressed and nothing seems to be changing. I hope I didn’t read all that wrong. That being said, I got bogged down in the politics, both present and past. I don’t know anything about Egyptian history and it felt like that was almost necessary to be able to read between the lines and accurately see what the author was trying to show me. This was written in 1999 and there’s one section about American foreign policy and Islamic radicals. That was a little eerie to read post-9/11. There were tons of names in this book. Enough to make me think of Anna Karenina. With at least half of them being Egyptian names, I just gave up and hoped that I would figure out the main players as I went. I think I did, but I hate when authors do that. Even the British names were hard to keep up with. Just too much. This is such a little thing, but it drove me crazy for a while. Every chapter started on the left-hand page. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? Well, I must have some sort of OCD about that because I could not get over it for the longest time. I just felt “off.” Fortunately every chapter also starts with a quote by itself on the right-hand page before the chapter starts and I was able to start thinking of that as the first page of the chapter, but it really was killing me at first. So, beautiful writing, Egyptian politics both past and present. If you’re interested, go ahead and pick this up. Anna’s story really was good, the rest of it just confused me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I have a problem deciding between 4 and 5 stars. I give it 5 stars because The Map of Love is EXACTLY the kind of reading I LOVE! Passionate, rich with historical and geographical data, evocative of the past, culturally challenging and full of oriental romance. The book has given me a significantly different glance at the Arabic world and most of all about the Palestinian past (that I must admit, didn't know much about till now). It has also blended the two worlds of Anna and Sharif beautifully, I have a problem deciding between 4 and 5 stars. I give it 5 stars because The Map of Love is EXACTLY the kind of reading I LOVE! Passionate, rich with historical and geographical data, evocative of the past, culturally challenging and full of oriental romance. The book has given me a significantly different glance at the Arabic world and most of all about the Palestinian past (that I must admit, didn't know much about till now). It has also blended the two worlds of Anna and Sharif beautifully, and through the eyes of love has shown us a great example of coexistence. I give it 4 stars, however, because at times I've lacked depth of description (for example, I would have loved to read more more more about the wedding and Anna's life as an Arab lady; or also more about Amal's past and the reason behind her withdrawal). I also think that Isabel's and Omar's lovestory doesn't come even close to that of Anna and Sharif (probably it wasn't meant to either), but I would've loved a bit more intensity between them (possibly without the Jasmine story lurking in the back of their minds). Alas, I did find this book very difficult to leave behind in the end! It has really grown to me, not just because of the exotic vibe, but because it's a book that makes you understand the world and its inhabitants better, makes you see the invisible thread between past and present, and urges you to keep an open mind. Go read it! :)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Judging by the price sticker I purchased this in Dublin's Chapters Bookshop. The cover is Aswan twilight with feluccas *sighs a remembering sigh*. Dedication: For Ian Front Quotes: It is strange this period [1900-1914] when the Colonialists and their collaborators thought everything was quiet - was one of the most fertile in Egypt's history. A great examination of the self took place, and a great recharging of energy in preparation for a new Renaissance. (Gamal 'Abd el-Nasser, 'The Covenant' 1962) Judging by the price sticker I purchased this in Dublin's Chapters Bookshop. The cover is Aswan twilight with feluccas *sighs a remembering sigh*. Dedication: For Ian Front Quotes: It is strange this period [1900-1914] when the Colonialists and their collaborators thought everything was quiet - was one of the most fertile in Egypt's history. A great examination of the self took place, and a great recharging of energy in preparation for a new Renaissance. (Gamal 'Abd el-Nasser, 'The Covenant' 1962) Even God cannot change the past. Agathon (447-401 BC) There is a family tree at the beginning (very helpful given the names) and a glossary at the back. Opening: - and there, on the table under her bedroom window, lies the voice that has set her dreaming again. #37 TBR Busting 2013 Read 50 pages in the early hours just to get the sugary Sister of My Heart out of my system. This is infinitely better written. Intelligent hist fic that encompasses the twentieth century and trying to shake off the brits Erudite and by necessity political Wonder if there will be a follow on to include the egyptian spring

  18. 4 out of 5

    okyrhoe

    Ahdaf Soueif's familiarity with the British sensibility and the Victorian literary style merges almost seamlessly with the Arab tendency to imbue magical/mystical elements into historical accounts and personal storytelling. This novel is balanced in that respect, lacking the sentimentality of other Egyptian writers of fiction. In some instances the editorializing - the commentary on the historical & political situation which seems to be the author's rather than the narrator's view - began to irr Ahdaf Soueif's familiarity with the British sensibility and the Victorian literary style merges almost seamlessly with the Arab tendency to imbue magical/mystical elements into historical accounts and personal storytelling. This novel is balanced in that respect, lacking the sentimentality of other Egyptian writers of fiction. In some instances the editorializing - the commentary on the historical & political situation which seems to be the author's rather than the narrator's view - began to irritate me. On the other hand, the critiques women's issues in Arab & Victorian society are intelligently subtle, and I enjoyed the underhanded jibes about women's "verbal veiling." I was also fascinated by the associations Soueif/the narrator makes regarding the etymology and usage of certain Arabic terms. But I'm still trying to determine why Soueif omits explaining "baksheesh" in the glossary ;- )

  19. 5 out of 5

    Florence

    Egypt, in 1910, is in political turmoil. England dominates the government and rules the land bitterly opposed by Egyptian nationalists. Twin love stories unfold - one in the past and one in the present. Both are bittersweet and slowly blossom. The story, told in the voice of several characters, is deeply entwined with Egyptian culture. At times I felt lost. There was not enough historic background to fully understand the politics of the day. Also, the character of Anna, originally presented as a Egypt, in 1910, is in political turmoil. England dominates the government and rules the land bitterly opposed by Egyptian nationalists. Twin love stories unfold - one in the past and one in the present. Both are bittersweet and slowly blossom. The story, told in the voice of several characters, is deeply entwined with Egyptian culture. At times I felt lost. There was not enough historic background to fully understand the politics of the day. Also, the character of Anna, originally presented as a fiercely independent woman falls seamlessly into domestic bliss in a male dominated household. So the love story seemed unrealistic to me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    As I’m reading outside my comfort zone this summer, their was inevitably going to be a book that I wouldn’t enjoy as much as I hoped. The Map of Love was my pick for Egypt during my #WorldCupInBooks challenge. Told over two time periods during the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, this cross cultural parallel relationships. The book constantly flipped between the two time periods. I thought it was a nice story but it soon got bogged down in political situations at the time. As much as I As I’m reading outside my comfort zone this summer, their was inevitably going to be a book that I wouldn’t enjoy as much as I hoped. The Map of Love was my pick for Egypt during my #WorldCupInBooks challenge. Told over two time periods during the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, this cross cultural parallel relationships. The book constantly flipped between the two time periods. I thought it was a nice story but it soon got bogged down in political situations at the time. As much as I wanted to enjoy the story it soon felt a little repetitive and slow. Overall I’m glad that I read this novel, but others that are more familiar with the genre will enjoy it more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ayelet Waldman

    This book is appallingly bad, and the Booker people are out of their collective minds. I mean, good GOD. What are they thinking, putting this tripe on their short list? With the overblown metaphors and the ludicrous political diatribes? Will someone please let me know if I write like this so that I can become an underwear saleswoman?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Siegrist

    Friday, May 29, 2009 Families and readers I have been reading The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif, a lovely saga of a thing, perfect for wintry nights because its set somewhere warm (Egypt) and has at its heart a reader prone to worrying with whom I instantly identified. This is the beginning of the book. "Amal reads deep into the night. She reads and lets Anna's words flow into her, probing gently at dreams and hope and sorrows she had sorted out, labelled and put away". I loved Amal as a character. Friday, May 29, 2009 Families and readers I have been reading The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif, a lovely saga of a thing, perfect for wintry nights because its set somewhere warm (Egypt) and has at its heart a reader prone to worrying with whom I instantly identified. This is the beginning of the book. "Amal reads deep into the night. She reads and lets Anna's words flow into her, probing gently at dreams and hope and sorrows she had sorted out, labelled and put away". I loved Amal as a character. She has so much integrity, but because the world is so imperfect this leads to a passivity and inertia because it is so difficult to act with integrity when all of one's choices seemed not quite right. Amal absorbs herself in the documents of Anna Winterbourne and her grandmother Layla, documents in English, French and a "neat Arabic raq'a script". I loved this too - the intersections of culture as manifest in language. It's so clever because at the same time as it is an exotic love story between Anna and Sharif and then Isabel and Omar, it also problematises this notion of exoticism (and really of love). There's a moment in the novel where Amal discovers an article by Sharif about the appeal of the East which he sees as a economic solution to the West's problems and also the Orient, a wonderful otherwordly place full of exoticism. Amal jokes that they could republish it now. I found myself wanting to read about this book (discovering this very glamourous photograph of Ahdaf giving a speech) and some people found the romance too much and others found it a wonderful post-colonialistic launching pad for pontificating! (Actually this article was very interesting about the letters of women travellers as a subversive discourse). The structure was great - I liked the layers, the disparities between the past and present, the gaps in knowledge between the generations. I found myself fascinated by the missing generation, the adult Nur (Anna's daughter and Isabella's grandmother) and Ahmad (Layla's son and Amal's grandfather), their life stories hinted at in just a few sentences.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Bryant

    In the Egyptian room in the British Museum in London I stood, the Rosetta Stone inches away from me: Large, smooth, cool dark gray, inscribed with precise characters on every side. Hushed with awe to contemplate how many centuries it has existed. Mysterious yet comprehensible, strangely beautiful in its profound, silent eloquence. "The Map of Love" is like the Rosetta Stone: Different voices tell the same story. Time passes, yet their experiences are timeless. In the eternal culture of Egypt, thr In the Egyptian room in the British Museum in London I stood, the Rosetta Stone inches away from me: Large, smooth, cool dark gray, inscribed with precise characters on every side. Hushed with awe to contemplate how many centuries it has existed. Mysterious yet comprehensible, strangely beautiful in its profound, silent eloquence. "The Map of Love" is like the Rosetta Stone: Different voices tell the same story. Time passes, yet their experiences are timeless. In the eternal culture of Egypt, three women find love and home in ways they never could in America and England. Isabel's project, to record how timeless Egypt experiences the new millennium, quickly disintegrates as her originally objective viewpoint becomes very personal. A hundred years earlier, Anna abandons England to embrace Egypt on every level, even as her experiences strengthen then break her heart. And Amal bridges both their worlds as she pieces together the fragments of their family within the vast history, geography, culture, politics, and spirit of Egypt. "Egypt, mother of civilisation, dreaming herself through the centuries. Dreaming us all, her children: those of us who stay and work for her and complain of her, and those who leave and yearn for her and blame her with bitterness for driving them away."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christin

    I really enjoyed this book. I am partial to multi-character and multi-generational narratives and this novel spans a very interesting part of Egyptian history. Seeing historical events like the Urabi revolt or various developments in Palestine from this fictional, first-person narrative perspective was engaging, though I have to say that some characters gripped me more than others. I found myself looking forward to the sections of Anna's letters (i.e. the earlier historical narrative) as opposed I really enjoyed this book. I am partial to multi-character and multi-generational narratives and this novel spans a very interesting part of Egyptian history. Seeing historical events like the Urabi revolt or various developments in Palestine from this fictional, first-person narrative perspective was engaging, though I have to say that some characters gripped me more than others. I found myself looking forward to the sections of Anna's letters (i.e. the earlier historical narrative) as opposed to the modern context, though Amal, the chief/master narrator from the present day, was also an appealing "tour guide" to the story. There were definitely some twists and coincidences that felt like a bit of a stretch, though perhaps that was intentional and part of a greater attempt to inject some mystical/magical aspects into the realism/historical aspects of the story. I would have preferred if the author had reigned it in at some points though. Overall, an interesting combination of politics, family, and of course, love.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I didn't really love or not love this book. It goes back in forth in time; from early 1900's to late 1990's and the relationships between the past and present come together; very slowly. There is only one character, Anna, who I came to care about and my mind would drift quite a bit throughout the book. This is generally a genre I really enjoy so I was surprised it did not deliver what I wanted. I want it all!! I didn't really love or not love this book. It goes back in forth in time; from early 1900's to late 1990's and the relationships between the past and present come together; very slowly. There is only one character, Anna, who I came to care about and my mind would drift quite a bit throughout the book. This is generally a genre I really enjoy so I was surprised it did not deliver what I wanted. I want it all!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    26 MAR 2016 - this is a book that with the correct cinematography and casting would make a fantastic film. In my mind, I am thinking of a comparison to Out of Africa. As for the reading of The Map of Love, as is usual with multiple storylines, I enjoyed Anna's story more. The Map of Love is a lovely read and I will hold out hope that someone will turn this into a lovely film. 26 MAR 2016 - this is a book that with the correct cinematography and casting would make a fantastic film. In my mind, I am thinking of a comparison to Out of Africa. As for the reading of The Map of Love, as is usual with multiple storylines, I enjoyed Anna's story more. The Map of Love is a lovely read and I will hold out hope that someone will turn this into a lovely film.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Esther Espeland

    Enjoyed a moderate amount but had no business being over 500 pages imo

  28. 4 out of 5

    Booknblues

    Ahdaf Soueif presents two tales to provide a bridge across nations and generations. Amal receives a trunk from Isabel a love interest of Amal's brother Omar who resides in New York. She becomes immersed in uncovering the story of Anna an English woman of the early twentieth century which is found in journals in the trunk, one side of which Amal is already familiar with. While making her discoveries in the trunk Amal finds the ties that bound her great uncle are again entrapping her brother. The Ahdaf Soueif presents two tales to provide a bridge across nations and generations. Amal receives a trunk from Isabel a love interest of Amal's brother Omar who resides in New York. She becomes immersed in uncovering the story of Anna an English woman of the early twentieth century which is found in journals in the trunk, one side of which Amal is already familiar with. While making her discoveries in the trunk Amal finds the ties that bound her great uncle are again entrapping her brother. The map of love is a continuing tapestry of life. Soueif is a gifted writer and presents a compelling tale in a lyrical and poetic manner. She invites the reader into the life stories of Anna and Sharif. It is a story that cannot be happily ever after, but is mesmerizing. Amal is an intriguing character whose complete story is hidden behind the tapestry of Anna and Sharif and Isabel and Omar. Anna also is an interesting character. A young woman haunted by the death of her husband who she feels she didn't love enough. Anna travels to Egypt to seek redemption and solace. This book can be difficult in the sense that the reader is given much one sided information about the development of Egypt in the twentieth century. It is hard to put into context and does not necessarily help in the telling of the story. However it is a story about politics and nations and how they effect are lives and who we love and the effort it takes to rise above these walls. This is a book for anyone who appreciates a good love story and is willing to move at the pace of Amal who takes one piece of the map of love out of the trunk at a time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tania Gee

    3.5 Stars I struggle with what to rate this book. I would rate it a 3, but only because of my own personal tastes, not because of any real flaw with the book. Have you ever felt like you should be enjoying a book more, like there is really no reason why you shouldn't be, and you know others would love it, and yet you're still left just slightly dissatisfied with the book yourself? This was such a book for me. I believe The Map of Love to be essential reading for anyone interested in Egyptian cult 3.5 Stars I struggle with what to rate this book. I would rate it a 3, but only because of my own personal tastes, not because of any real flaw with the book. Have you ever felt like you should be enjoying a book more, like there is really no reason why you shouldn't be, and you know others would love it, and yet you're still left just slightly dissatisfied with the book yourself? This was such a book for me. I believe The Map of Love to be essential reading for anyone interested in Egyptian culture, politics and history, which I am. I think this book is more like a 4 Star by general standards, I'm just not such a huge fan of historical fiction and its tropes, so I found it went on a bit too long, but I don't think most people would. This is a historical fiction based on the events happening in Egypt in the early 1900s and late 1990s. It is told from the perspective of three intelligent, politically minded women. This is not a point of view often explored, and I enjoyed learning so much about such fascinating, if troubled, times in such a beautiful, yet often misunderstood, place. I sucked up every ounce of political history and loved it. I loved learning more Arabic vocabulary as I listen to a lot of Middle Eastern music and, I'll admit it, I loved knowing some of the musical references made in the novel to those such as Om Kalthoum. Interestingly, I very much connected with the character of Isabel, which surprised me for some reason. I might write more coherently about this later, but that's all for the moment folks!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amal

    I just can't explain exactly how I feel twards this novel? from time to time I fell in love with a novel with it's characters and with what it is telling us. these kind of novels are very rare and The Map of love is very much one of them. It is a fresh psalm that takes your heart away...very far and deep in time where you beleive that you like to belong during this time with these marvelous people, to be part of this love story between Ann an Sharif basha Al Baroudi, or at least to be one of its I just can't explain exactly how I feel twards this novel? from time to time I fell in love with a novel with it's characters and with what it is telling us. these kind of novels are very rare and The Map of love is very much one of them. It is a fresh psalm that takes your heart away...very far and deep in time where you beleive that you like to belong during this time with these marvelous people, to be part of this love story between Ann an Sharif basha Al Baroudi, or at least to be one of its witnesses. it's a great novel deserves to last during time and for ever. I realy didn't want to finish reading it, wanted to go reading it over and over untill the last moment of my life. It's a perfect novel or should I say: it's a real perfect life.

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