Ahdaf Soueif's The Map of Love is a massive family saga, a story that draws its readers into two moments in the complex, and troubled, history of modern Egypt. The story begins in New York, in 1997: Isabel Parkman discovers an old trunk full of documents--some in English, some in Arabic--in her dying mother's apartment. Omar-al- Ghamrawi, a man with whom she is falling in love, directs her to his sister, Amal, in Cairo. Together the two women begin to uncover the stories embedded in the journal of Lady Anna Winterbourne (who travels to Egypt in 1900 and falls in love with Sharif Pasha al- Barudi, an Egyptian Nationalist) and the unsuspected connections between their own families. British colonialism, Egyptian nationalism, the clash of cultures in the Middle East in 1900 and the present day: the different narratives of The Map of Love weave a subtle, and reflective, tale of love across culture and conflict--the ways in which relations between individuals may (or may not) make the difference. "I am in an English autumn in 1897 and Anna's troubled heart lies open before me": Amal's response to Anna Winterbourne's journal could be a description of how to read this fascinating book, its invitation to use words as a means to travel through time, space and identity. --Vicky Lebeau
"Vivid, passionate and shedding, as true love does, a brilliant, revealing light on the world beyond itself."--"The Sunday Telegraph" (London)"Epic--. Soueif is at her most eloquent on the subject of her homeland, her prose rich with historical detail and debate. Ultimately, Egypt emerges as the true heroine of this novel."--"The Independent" (London)"Ahdaf Soueif has a talent for blending the personal and political and getting under the skin of each one of her characters."--"Independent on Sunday" (London)"A magnificent work, reminiscent of Marquez and Allende in its breadth and confidence."--"The Guardian""A bold and vibrant novel--. This is political fiction that is also unashamedly romantic--. A triumphant achievement."--Penelope Lively, "Literary Review"
In 1900 Lady Anna Winterbourne travels to Egypt where she falls in love with Sharif, and Egyptian Nationalist utterly committed to his country's cause.
A hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, an American divorcee and a descendant of Anna and Sharif, goes to Egypt, taking with her an old family trunk, inside which are found notebooks and journals which reveal Anna and Sharif's secret.