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Maps for Lost Lovers [Hardcover]

Nadeem Aslam
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Jun 2004
In an unnamed town in England, Jugnu and Chanda have disappeared - and Chanda's brothers have been arrested for their murder. What follows is an unravelling of all that is sacred to the family, as the pious Kaukab tries desperately to square the traditional justice of her culture with the more personal consequences of their murder. 'Maps for Lost Lovers' opens the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, community, nationality and religion and expresses their pain and desire in a language that is arrestingly poetic.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (24 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571221807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571221806
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 132,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Maps for Lost Lovers is a stunningly brave and searingly brutal novel charting a year in the life of a working class community from the subcontinent--a group described by author Nadeem Aslam as "Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian and Sri Lankans living in a northern town". The older residents, who have left their homelands for the riches of England, have communally dubbed it Dasht-e-Tanhaii, which roughly translates as "the wilderness of solitude" or "the desert of loneliness". As the seasons change, from the first crystal flakes of snow that melt into "a monsoon raindrop", we slowly learn the fate of Jugnu and Chanda, a couple whose disappearance is rumoured to have been a result of their fatal decision to live in sin in a community where the phrase holds true meaning.

This uncompromisingly honest--and often uncomfortable to read--story is told through the eyes of Jugnu's brother's family who live next door. Shamas is director of the local Community Relations Council; a liberal, educated man he still mourns the passing of communism and yearns for passion in his later years. His wife Kaukub, daughter of a Pakistani cleric, is also in mourning for the passing of her devout Muslim upbringing and is forced to watch her three children turn "native". She tries increasingly desperate measures to turn them back to Islam. Pakistani-born Nadeem Aslam skilfully intertwines myths and legends with a harsh, modern reality. Tragic sub-plots of Romeo-and-Juliet proportions abound. And while some of the extended descriptive passages sit uneasily on the page and, towards the end, several rants against Islam forced through the mouths of characters become thinly-veiled lectures, nevertheless Maps for Lost Lovers is an epic work and an important milestone in British literature that deserves to be widely read by all multicultural societies seeking mutual tolerance and understanding. --Carey Green


Praise from the U.K. for Nadeem Aslam's "Maps for Lost Lovers
"It depicts an extraordinary panorama of life within a Muslim community . . . Thoughtful, revealing, lushly written and painful, this timely book deserves the widest audience."
- David Mitchell, author of "Cloud Atlas and "Ghostwritten
"A superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn."
-Colm Toibin, author of "The Master and "Blackwater Lightship
"Haunting. [Aslam's] vivid and tender portrait of the strict Islamic mother, isolated by her unassailable belief, has stayed with me; as has his metamorphosis of a Northern English town into a poet's universe of flowers, trees and butterflies."
-Alan Hollinghurst, author of "The Line of Beauty and "The Swimming Pool Library
"A striking and impressive novel." -"The Sunday Times
"Rich in detail, languid in cadence and iridescent with remarkable images . . . Aslam takes us by the hand and, scattering his trail of bewitching images, leads us into his story . . . Rarely does Aslam put a foot wrong. This is that rare sort of book that gives a voice to those whose voices are seldom heard." -"The Observer
""Maps for Lost Lovers is a work of great courage both technically and spiritually . . . Stylistically the novel is equally daring . . . A filigree of quests for loves that never were, of passions cut short and of romances that are about to be. I was heartbroken when the dense, dark tapestry was finished." -"The Independent
"An extraordinary work, echoing Rohinton Mistry and Salman Rushdie, but entirely, and unmistakably, the product of a wholly originalmind." -"The Herald
"In this book, filled with stories of cruelty, injustice, bigotry and ignorance, love never steps out of the picture-it gleams at the edges of even the deepest wounds . . . [a] remarkable achievment." -"The Guardian
" 'Maps for Lost Lovers' is a novel of extraordinary quality. Islamists would be foolish to try and make political mischief out of it, while western readers would be foolish to ignore such a carefully crafted work." -"The Economist
"This is a Persian love poem for the 21st century, and Aslam is an author to watch."
-"Books Quarterly
"Aslam's prose soars, dazzling images abound . . . Through the opulence of his writing and the darkness of his message Aslam quite brilliantly and shockingly seduces his reader . . . Beautiful and only too real, this story born of romance and pain matches its artistry with courage. It is an important novel and also a very fine one." -"The Irish Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
o, after reading the book all through the night, literally, (I went to bed at 6.30 a.m.!) I finally finished this masterpiece. It was a mixed feeling because the book was so beautiful, the characters so real, the experiences of the protagonists finding so many echoes in my own life (and I'm sure in that of most British Pakistanis whether first, second or third generation), the prose so ravishing that I didn't really want it to end.

Initially, I started this book last year but it is not an easy book to read, the writing is so detailed, descriptive, ornate and choc-a-bloc full of metaphor after metaphor, simile upon simile, that one is forced to take one's time. At that time last year, I was too mentally tired and busy to make the effort required. This time though, I put my other reading on hold and gave the book my undivided attention. I'm glad I did! The language of the book is so luscious, so beautiful, that for afficianados of prose style it alone is sufficient reason to read it. If we then add to it an interesting, realistic, so-contemporary-relevant, central plot, wonderfully realised main characters, and a great gift for putting images on the page, this book becomes a must-read. The central plot follows the lives of a family of Pakistanis in a Northern England town for a year after the main protagonist's brother and his lover are murdered by the girl's brothers out of 'honour'. The two main characters around whom the novel revolves are Shamas, a libertine, cultural-only Muslim, secretly a Communist, and his deeply pious, conservative, wife, Kaukab, the matriarch and daughter of a cleric.

Aslam has really succeeded in portraying the lives, dreams, and fears of immigrant Pakistanis in the UK. That he does it with magical prose is icing on the cake.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic book 17 Dec 2004
This book is so good that i would probably rate it as one of the best if not THE best book i have ever read. It follows the life of Shamas and Kaukab and how they deal with the mysterious disappearance of Shamas' brother Jugnu and Chanda. The book is so beautifully written and the author delves deep in creating the atmosphere and characters. He does so with such detail that you become immersed into his world. Each character is so real and the author takes parts of their lives and interweaves it into the main story in such a way that u don't get sidetracked or lose interest but it enhances the main plot.
The other main reason for loving this book is that it covers so many subjects that we as, british pakistanis/muslims face but don't talk about. But the author handles each topic with such sensitivity that u feel that u immediately relate. Thank you Mr Aslam for being brave enough to question and expose the truth of so many issues that are in each of our minds but are too timid to face.
In al, a fabulous book and i can't wait for the next one
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite novel with an engaging plot... 27 April 2004
By A Customer
A gorgeous poem of a novel with a strong narrative and complex, intriguingcharacterisation. While it may take a little time to get into the storybecause of the rather dreamy meditative opening, once in you'll begripped. It begins with the disappearance of two transgressing lovers ina small Asian immigrant community in England (were they murdered in an'honour killing'? or did they run away from a disapproving society?) andspirals out to look at the impact this has on the people left behind,primarily Shamas the romantic, idealistic patriarch of the central familyand his traditionalist Muslim wife Kaukab, a hidebound cleric's daughter. Aslam has a great description of their profoundly different, yet in theireffect, similar outlooks: Kaukab was 'too busy longing for the world andtime her grandparents came from and he too busy daydreaming about theworld and time his grandchildren were to inherit. Those around her wereless important to her than those buried under her feet and for him theimportant ones were those hovering over his head - those yet to be born'
At turns funny (the retort of a Muslim woman to a Hindu speculating onbirth defects produced by an 'incestuous' marriage between two cousinssprings to mind... she suggests that the critic look at her own gods whohave 'eyes in the middle of their foreheads and what about those six armedgoddesses that were more Swiss Army knives than deities?') and tragicthis is a remarkable novel which deserves to be widely read and enjoyed.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Flag of a Deeper Colour 8 Sep 2004
Maps for Lost Lovers takes place in 1997 and is set over the course of a year in an unnamed community in England with a large Muslim population. It's primary focus is a married couple, Shamas, a non-believer and Kaukab, his pious wife. There are many mysteries threaded throughout this beautifully written novel, but the central one focuses on the disappearance of Shamas' brother Jugnu and the woman he was living with, Chanda. The two were not married and therefore were perceived to be living in a state of sin according to Muslim belief. Chanda's two brothers have been accused of murdering the couple. Over the course of the year, the trial over their suspected murder unfolds and many hidden secrets of the community are brought to light. It's a story of great suspense, giving precious insight into a very closed community that is struggling to maintain the beliefs of the country they left and the religion which is in many ways antithetical to modern English life.
It took Aslam over ten years to write this novel, working largely in solitude and subsisting on a very humble income. The beautifully wrought passages attest to the concentrated labour used to create them and the vast amount of time he spent with these characters shows in the penetrating insight he gives to their individual minds and hearts. The lyrical style of the novel which uses metaphor upon metaphor might at first be a distraction to the reader. However, this persistent way of likening one thing to another reflects the attitudes of people in this community who persistently compare things in England to their home country. It's a device by the author to show how they are in some ways unable to see things in England as they really are.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
enjoyed this enormously but found the situations pretty hard to understand in this day and age. a very good holiday read
Published 5 months ago by margie
4.0 out of 5 stars Overly-polished writing derails a powerful story
This novel, the author's second, took more than 11 years to complete, won the 2005 Kiriyama Prize and was also long-listed for the preceding year's Booker Prize. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dr R
5.0 out of 5 stars Painful and beautiful
This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. There is the constant tension between the beauty of the writing and the extraordinary pain of the central event... Read more
Published 11 months ago by judith
3.0 out of 5 stars Enlightened
I found this book a fascinating insight into a world of which I had little understanding. The juxtaposition of two very different lifestyles and belief systems creates an ongoing... Read more
Published 17 months ago by CuriousAboutLife
5.0 out of 5 stars Desperately sad but beautifully written
I really enjoyed this after struggling initially with the dense prose. I became caught up with the story and it gives a real insight into the tragedy caused by the clash of... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sketchpad
5.0 out of 5 stars Nadeem a real and belated discovery for this book addict
Don't know why I hadn't discovered him before - my loss! Terrifying descriptions of race, bigotry and plain ignorance. But I've made up for it now ....
Published 18 months ago by Richard Cogan / Heike Wessels
5.0 out of 5 stars I have recommended this book to friends and family
I couldn't put this book down once I had started it. I loved Aslam's style of writing. My heart went out to poor Kaukub, she meant so well and got it so wrong.
Published 21 months ago by Sally
3.0 out of 5 stars A challenging read
A highly descriptive style of writing. The subject matter makes uncomfortable and thought provoking reading. Quite hard going at times.
Published 21 months ago by Jackie C
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing book.
Brilliant, brilliant book! Wonderful writing. Nadeem Aslem is one brave cookie re the subject matter. Read more
Published 22 months ago by lkj
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I found this book very difficult to get into, l almost gave up half way through, I persevered but was glad when I had finished, not really sure what the story was about.
Published 22 months ago by Chris howe
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