The Map Of Love (Amazon | Book Depository)
Written by Ahdaf Soueif
Published by Anchor Books (2000, first published 1999)
ISBN: 0385720114 (ISBN13: 9780385720113) Literary Award: Booker Prize Nominee (1999). Bought my own copy of the book. Book quote layouts done via an iPhone app.
This book is on my radar for awhile now, having learned that Ahdaf Soueif is one of Egypt’s most renowned authors. When I chanced upon this book at the Big Bad Wolf Book Fair in Malaysia (see my post here), I immediately grabbed a copy. I thought our #WomenReadWomen2019 theme is the perfect opportunity to feature Egypt’s famous female novelist.
I read this novel during my first few weeks here at the United Arab Emirates – and found the narrative delightfully convoluted: with two timelines going on, both characterized by intense love that spans decades and generations. There was also cross-cultural love affairs: particularly in the 1900s with a British white woman and an Egyptian nationalist, who had a fierce love of country. This was the part that absorbed me more than the contemporary love story of the divorced American female journalist who fell in love with an Egyptian American genius musical conductor. How the two timelines intersect, I shall leave for you to discover.
I was also fascinated by a White woman’s perceptions on the veil (and her decision to wear it), the many struggles and prejudices that she had to endure with her deciding to marry outside of her culture, with her husband looked down upon by her snooty and high-handed British compatriots despite his being born from a noble, educated, and highly respected family.
A great deal of the Egyptian politics went over my head – with me not really aware of the allusions, the historical context nor the background. Yet despite this, it did not detract from my general enjoyment of the narrative which I felt was more of a love story, with political commentaries strategically inserted here and there.
What struck me most of all in the story was the women’s decisiveness, their pursuit of their men, and their ability to commit to a relationship that from an onlooker’s perspective, seemed doomed at the onset. The twist somewhere in the end was also unexpected but still seemed credible – showing the hand of destiny, the sorcery of love.
#WomenReadWomen2019: 34 (out of target 25): Egypt