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Customer Review

on 8 September 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. One of the most remarkable things about this novel is the shocking, extremely violent reactions by the Muslim community used to condemn some of the characters' actions. Aslam based all these events on real reported incidents. He also depicts the extremely intolerant and racist attitudes of non-Muslims to this community of immigrants. However, at the same time the author shows how deeply compassionate members of the community are to each other and the difficult struggle they experience trying to maintain their beliefs in opposition to the more extreme Muslim behaviour some of them disapprove of. Aslam has spoken about how moderate Muslim's need to speak up in today's world and dispel the popular Western view that all people of this religion are dangerous extremists. This rich, entertaining and poignant novel is a testament to that struggle.
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Product Details

3.9 out of 5 stars
67