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Map Of Love, The [Paperback]

Ahdaf Soueif
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 31 2000
A vivid and passionate love story from the Booker Shortlisted author

In 1900 Lady Anna Winterbourne travels to Egypt where she falls in love with Sharif, and Egyptian Nationalist utterly committed to his country's cause.

A hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, an American divorcee and a descendant of Anna and Sharif, goes to Egypt, taking with her an old family trunk, inside which are found notebooks and journals which reveal Anna and Sharif's secret.

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Product Description

From Amazon

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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

CoincidenceApersonal, political and culturalArules in this burnished, ultra-romantic Booker Prize finalist. In 1997, Isabel Parkman, a recently divorced American journalist, travels to Egypt to research about the impending millennium. But her interest in Egypt has more to do with her crush on Omar al-Ghamrawi, a passionate and difficult older Egyptian-American conductor and political writer, than with her work. Once in Egypt, Isabel neglects her project for a more personal investigation. Lugging with her a mysterious trunk of papers bequeathed to her by her mother, Isabel turns up at Omar's sister Amal's house in Cairo and explains that Omar had said she might be interested in translating the papers. As the two soon discover, Isabel is Amal's distant cousin, and the papers belonged to their mutual great-grandmother, Anna Winterbourne. As a young English widow, Anna traveled to turn-of-the-century Egypt, then an English colony, and fell in love with an Egyptian man. "I cannot help thinking that when she chose to step off the well-trodden paths of expatriate life, Anna must have secretly wanted something out of the ordinary to happen to her," muses Amal, who begins to realize that the same applies to her own life. Soueif (In the Eye of the Sun) writes simply and, on occasion, beautifully. Anna's journal entries are particularly evocative. Sticklers for narrative detail might chafe at the number of incredible coincidences, including a bizarre twist involving Isabel's mother and Omar, and forsaken plot devices (Isabel's millennium project is never mentioned after her arrival in Egypt). On balance, however, Soueif weaves the stories of three formidable women from vastly different times and countries into a single absorbing tale. 6-city author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anna and the Basha April 16 2001
This book starts slowly, it's a wonderful read for the summer(the beach) or whenever you have the time to read it right through and to absorb the impact of a very proper English Lady (i.e. aristocrat) of the 19th century embracing an entirely new life and circumstances with the man she falls in love with, an Egyptian, who, being persona non grata with the British colonists, results in the same status being conveyed on her. It's not a romance novel, it's far more serious. It's about love in all its many facets, it's a contrast of life in the nineteenth, versus the late twentieth,century. I recommend it, it challenges conventional notions of life in Egypt, as well as giving background to Middle East politics from the inception of the twentieth century. Anna knew duty, and caring. What she had yearned for was love, and it found her, and alongside she gave, and received, love from her husband's mother (her belle-mere), his sister, and all their family. This book embraces the redeeming quality of love. The parallel contrast with her modern-day relative, Isabel, makes the reader pause and reflect. I read this after an extensive blitz on the Patrica Cornwell/Kay Scarpetta novels, which are addictive. The pace here is slower, the language more evocative and wordy. Let it transport you, Anna and her story will stay with you longer than Dr Scarpetta.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive and timely May 14 2002
An amazingly tender and encapturing story that you can't put down. The book deals with the challenges of culture meeting culture, and it is evident that time hasn't softened the impact of people's differences. An excellent insight into the sensitive mingling of East and West. Thought-provoking, entrancing, compelling. I would highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars my review May 2 2002
This is the first time I have read a book from this author, but I was interested in the story because many years ago I visited Egypt and have always been in love with its history.
The book is very alive and interesting to the very end, altough I think there are a little too many details on the political situation of the time. What I found very clever is the combination of the story of Egypt in two different eras that we learn through one person reading her great-grandmother's journal. I have to say it kept me reading to find out what happened.
One thing that has made me appreciate this book even more is the importance of keeping a diary.... our heirs will always be interested in reading how our live was.....!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Richly Textured Literary Tapestry April 16 2002
"The Map of Love" is a richly textured literary tapestry that intertwines the romantic stories of two different couples, separated by a century, with the politics, history and culture of Egypt and the West. It is, first and foremost, the epistolary narrative of Anne Winterbourne, an English widow who moves to Egypt, falls in love with, and ultimately marries, the Egyptian lawyer and political activist Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi in 1901. It is also the story of Isabel Parkman, the great granddaughter of Anne and Sharif, a thirty-five-year old American divorcee who, like her great grandmother before her, falls in love in 1997 with Omar, a brilliant, self-centered and much older Egyptian conductor and political activist for the Palestinian cause.
The stories of these two romances are largely told by Omar's sister, Amal, herself a woman who has had her own failed marriage and two grown children who she no longer sees. Given a trunk full of Anne Winterbourne's letters by Isabel, who finds them when her dying mother enters the hospital, Amal soon becomes obsessed with writing the story of Anne Winterbourne, in the process also becoming the confidant of the Isabel and her passionate obsession for Omar.
"The Map of Love" weaves an intricate and powerful narrative, spanning time, geography and culture, providing a remarkable picture of Egyptian history and politics as it confronts the British colonialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and its legacy nearly a century later. If the book has a shortcoming, it is in the relative weakness of the story of Isabel and Omar, a romance that never quite grips the reader. It is a shortcoming which is perhaps more apparent because the epistolary tale, the tale of the life of Anne Winterbourne and Sharif Pasha, is brilliantly wrought, a romantic narrative with true feeling and verisimilitude. "The Map of Love" should be read slowly and savored, preferably on a warm beach near the sea on a long summer's vacation.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Anna's journals keep this alive... Oct. 2 2001
Beginning with Fatima Mernissi, my favorite Muslim feminist, I love reading about the lives of women that are so different from mine - and usually, are more intense and more meaningful. Although a good friend who'd lived in Egypt said she had to force herself to get through some parts - I found this story to be gripping enough to hold me. Certainly the best parts are those from the diary and letters of the turn-of-the-century Englishwoman named Anna Winterbourne. After her young husband dies, Anna travels to Egypt, loves how different it is from her world, and eventually pulls away from the stuffy, closed-minded colonial community and falls in love with an older Egyptian nationalist (Sharif). Fast forward 95 years and find Isabel Parkman in New York City routing through her dying mother's things and finding a trunk full of what turn out to be Anna's documents. Because some of the documents are in Arabic she asks a man she is seeing, Omar (an unlikely international conductor) for assistance and he sends her to Cairo to his sister Amal. We learn soon enough that Isabel and Amal are cousins and the two of them begin to uncover the wonders of their ancestor's journal (and letters). Based in Egypt during unsettled times (both in the late 1890s and in the late 1990s) issues of nationalism and culture clashes are mirrored in both story lines. Soueif is much more powerful in her Egyptian characters and history and the relationship between Anna and Sharif is a pleasure to read. Sections of the book devoted to Isabel and her "issues" are considerably less enjoyable - but get through these because as the whole the book is a delightful family saga.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely
This amazing book that deals with the intricacies involved when two people from different cultures , from nations that have different histories and directions who love another come... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Peter Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is a wonderful book. IF you are into the middle east and or the middle east dance. then you will want this.
Published on Feb. 20 2011 by soulsurfer
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful!
I absolutely loved this book. The love stories of Anna and Sharif, as well as Isabel and Omar, were wonderfully expressed. Read more
Published on April 15 2002 by Elki Issa
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful, intricate, and breathtaking
This is quite a read. There are many elements that blend together to make this book as wonderful as it is. Read more
Published on March 21 2002 by Sarah_Aliza
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading
Those who have reviewed the book so far mention the difficuly in keeping the different characters/voices straight. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading
Those who have reviewed the book so far mention the difficuly in keeping the different characters/voices straight. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Ahdaf does it again!
A perfect book that DOES manage to blend the political
with the personal.
I was hooked on reading it... Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars couldn't get through it
What a confusing style. It's impossible to follow the switches between the diary and the person reading it to know who is "speaking" and when... Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2001 by C. Cronk
4.0 out of 5 stars Love, politics and religion
A fascinating multi-layered novel that cuts between present-day and turn of the Twentieth Century Egypt, The Map of Love is immaculately written, has memorable characters, and... Read more
Published on Aug. 22 2001 by flying-monkey
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