The Map of Love

Ahdaf Soueif

Sale price $4.95 Regular price $17.00

Lady Anna Winterbourne, an English widow, arrives in British-occupied Cairo in 1900. Fascinated by Egyptian culture, Anna bridles at the prejudices and parochial attitudes of the colonial community and follows her sense of curiosity to places few Europeans venture. During one disastrous secret outing, she meets and falls in love with Sharif Basha-al-Baroudi, a fierce Arab nationalist. He in turn falls in love with her, and against their better judgment, they marry. In a world where politics and personal relationships are inextricably intertwined, the choices Anna and Sharif make have profound repercussions not only in their own lives but in the lives of their descendants.

Isabel Parkman, Anna’s great-granddaughter, is a young American divorcée irresistibly drawn to Omar-al-Ghamrawi, a renowned Egyptian musician living in New York. Hoping to find keys to understanding him, Isabel travels to Omar’s homeland, taking with her an old truck full of papers she inherited from Anna. In Cairo, Isabel and Omar’s sister, Amal, unwrap Anna’s treasures and discover an unsuspected blood link between their families: Amid Anna’s diaries and letters and newspapers crackling with age is a notebook written in Amal’s grandmother’s hand recounting the story of her brother, Sharif, and the Englishwoman he loved. As Anna’s experiences during the first decades of the century and Isabel’s contemporary quest unfold in counterpoint, the politics that divide two cultures and the passions that bring lovers together resound across time and space.

Ahdaf Soueif evokes Egypt in meticulous detail, describing age-old and modern-day customs, the stark beauty of the desert and bustle of the cities, and the interactions among Egyptians and between Egyptians and Westerners. In a compelling, impressive combination of historical fidelity and fictional artistry, she takes a culture little understood by most Westerners and makes it real.