Author(s): Ahdaf Soueif
A vivid and passionate love story from the Booker Shortlisted author. The Map of Love is the story of two stories: two stories separated by a hundred years of history, two stories intricately intertwined. There is the story of Lady Anna Winterbourne who, recently widowed, travels to the Middle East in 1900. In Egypt Anna meet Sharif al-Barudi, an Egyptian Nationalist, high-born and utterly committed to his country's cause. For Sharif, Anna at first represents the pseudo-benign snobberies and vulgarities of colonialist Britain. For her, Sharif stand for the real, secret Egypt - an Egypt entirely hidden from her incurious expat. compatriots. The couple fall in love, but fearfully. Can such a love survive? They marry, but can Anna really turn herself into an Oriental wife? Can Sharif adjust to Anna's Englishness? And will the real world, the unloving world of history and politics, give them a chance to try? These questions arise naturally from the telling of their hundred-year-old narrative, but they are questions which, we learn, have a powerful present-tense significance for the heroine of the book's second story: the story of Isabel Parkman, an American divorcee and a descendant of Anna and Sharif. In 1997, Isabel meets and falls in love with Omar-al-Ghamrawi, a New York based Egyptian who also has blood-links to the Anna/Sharif marriage. What to do? Isabel decides to make a trip to Egypt. She is looking for an answer to questions she has scarcely framed, as yet. She carries with her an old family trunk, which she delivers to Omar's sister, Amal, who still lives in Cairo. In this trunk, when Amal unpacks it, are found the notebooks and journals to which Anna, one hundred years before, confided the story of her love affair with Sharif, her love affair with Egypt. And there are other relics: not least the observations of Sharif's sister, Layla. Amal pieces the story together for Isabel, and for us. Where there are gaps, she tries to fill them in, by first-hand research or by sympathetic guess-work. And as the old tale unfolds, so it invests the new tale, Isabel's tale, with a range of fresh complexities and depths. Are the two tales one? For Egypt, and for cross-cultural marriages, a lot has changed since 1900. On the other hand, so much has stayed the same. Egypt now, Isabel finds out, is born of Egypt then. Ancestry is more than just a family affair.
Booker shortlisted and a bestseller
Shortlisted for Booker Prize for Fiction 1999.
Ahdaf Soueif was born in Cairo and educated in Egypt and England. She is the autor of Aisha, Sandpiper and In the Eye of the Sun.