The Map of Love

The Map of Love

Book - 2000
Average Rating:
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Booker Prize Finalist

Here is an extraordinary cross-cultural love story that unfurls across Egypt, England, and the United States over the course of a century. Isabel Parkman, a divorced American journalist, has fallen in love with a gifted and difficult Egyptian-American conductor. Shadowing her romance is the courtship of her great-grandparents Anna and Sharif nearly one hundred years before.

In 1900 the recently widows Anna Winterbourne left England for Egypt, an outpost of the Empire roiling with political sentiment. She soon found herself enraptured by the real Egypt and in love with Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi, an Egyptian nationalist. When Isabel, in an attempt to discover the truth behind her heritage, reenacts Anna's excursion to Egypt, the story of her great-grandparents unravels before her, revealing startling parallels for her own life.

Combining the romance and intricate narrative of a nineteenth-century novel with a very modern sense of culture and politics--both sexual and international--Ahdaf Soueif has created a thoroughly seductive and mesmerizing tale.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 2000.
ISBN: 9780385720113
0385720114
Branch Call Number: SOUE
Characteristics: 529p. 22cm.

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WVMLStaffPicks Dec 06, 2014

This Booker Prize nominee fulfills one’s expectations for a great read. Soueif has convincingly portrayed two interwoven love stories spanning the last century in the Middle East and the West. Her descriptive language portrays the complex cultures and politics of transition which form the backdrop for Soueif’s wonderful tale. The people she portrays are sensual, intelligent and warm. You weep for their sorrow and exalt in their multi-faceted lives.

a
abroomfi
Jul 10, 2012

Ahdaf Soueif is clearly an ambitious novelist, one who uses fiction to weave together a dark period in Egypt's colonial history with a love story between an English gentlewoman and an Egyptian national. What struck me positively about _Map of Love_ was that the romance between Anna Winterbourne and Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi was so uplifting. I am used to inter-racial love affairs and marriages ending tragically--or at least ending-- as the characters are unable to withstand the social, parental and cultural pressures that tear at them in spite of their romantic bond. Soueif instead creates a romance where the two characters transcend their circumstances when necessary to accept the other; and yet, Soueif makes this story believable to me, gives me reason to hope for the best even when the circumstances that surround the characters are anything but pessimistic.

Less fulfilling is the parallel romance between Isabel Parkman and Omar al-Ghamrawi. The characters are flat, and at times, Isabel is made to seem too superficial and stereotypical as an American for me to believe her or take interest in her story; Omar al-Ghamrawi is even less developed than Isabel.

Although at times tough-going (I used the glossery of Arabic and American words in the back of the novel a lot), I learned a great deal from _The Map of Love_ about a history that I should already know about but do not, and at the same time, I found the love story/plot moving and even gripping. I highly recommend it.

o
ownedbydoxies
Nov 22, 2011

Ahdaf Soueif is an amazing writer... she writes prose that reads like poetry and her compassion for her characters, their flaws and their strengths, is life-affirming. She's unafraid to describe different cultures and the struggles people have in bridging their differences, but she does this with an open heart for both cultures. She's great!

m
mkeo1226
Oct 25, 2011

The novel focuses too much on politics, that the love story gets lost. As someone new to Arabic phrases and Middle Eastern history, this book was a bit difficult for me to follow.

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