|The Map of Love|
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, 1999
"Ahdaf Soueif has written a masterpiece ... set in the past and present, it has the weight of a Victorian novel without trading in nostalgia. Filled with subtlety, grace and beauty, it will make the reader cry. ” The Big Issue
"Half-romance and half a gently nationalist defence of Egypt - Soueif never raises her voice." The London Review of Books
In The Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif weaves an account of the consequences of British imperialism and the fierce political battles of the Egyptian Nationalists through the gorgeously romantic love story of Anna Winterbourne and Sharif al-Baroudi. Told through the voice of Amal, Sharif’s grandniece, Anna and Sharif’s story is echoed by the love affair between Isabel, their American great-granddaughter, and 'Omar, Amal’s brother, set against the continuing political turmoil of the Middle East.
Longing to assuage her grief at the loss of her husband, Anna Winterbourne travels to Egypt. She corresponds with her friends, with her father-in-law, Sir Charles, a fierce critic of British imperialism, and keeps a journal. While travelling disguised as a man, she is abducted by Egyptian nationalists and taken to the home of the al-Baroudis. There she meets and becomes firm friends with Layla. Sharif, Layla’s brother, accompanies her to Sinai, ensuring her safe conduct and the adventure she had sought. On their return, the couple undertake a marriage that will see Anna ostracised from British society and Sharif under suspicion from his nationalist colleagues.
A century later, Isabel Parkman finds Anna’s papers, some written in Arabic, in a family trunk when her mother is taken to hospital. When she meets the renowned conductor and political activist, 'Omar Ghamrawi, he suggests she take the papers to his sister, Amal, for translation. Already a little in love, Isabel travels to Egypt where she and Amal piece together Anna’s life from the contents of the trunk. The stories of Anna and Isabel, one a member of the British ruling classes, the other a citizen of the world’s most powerful country, are merged with scenes from Amal’s life and set against the backdrop of a political struggle in which only the names seem to change in the hundred years that separate Isabel from Anna.
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