Let me start with a note of warning: this is a complicated book. Many people populate the pages of this intriguing and well written book by the Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif. She writes about one family that branched out into other continents and people from non-Egyptian descent.
Let me continue with a joyful note: there is a family tree in the book, spread over two pages. The publisher left a due amount of empty space around each name. While reading this book I could fill in empty spaces with additional information.
This book has become a map of love, connecting places on the world map with lines of loves, connecting people with love. Fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, long lost relatives with familiar faces. Long lost letters form a connecting string of words in time and place.
In the fourth month of the year 1997 we find ourselves in Cairo, with a stack of papers written by Anna Winterbourne (1872-1933) a century earlier. The papers are in possession of Amal al-Ghamnawi, a very distant relative, who lives in Cairo. She received these papers from Isabel Parkman (1962), a direct descendant of Anna Winterbourne. Isabel has fallen in love with Amal’s brother Omar, who lives in the United States.
In this novel we follow the lives of these and other people. We get to know the political situation in Egypt and other countries, we travel back and forth in time, we encounter the dealings of the British Empire and Egyptian nationalism. We discover that borders are fragile dividing lines and people travel and settle in other places and countries. Love cannot be contained by borders and political allegiance.
When you get get a copy of this book: get hold of it. Take an easy chair and travel with this map of love. Follow with your eyes the lines on this map and discover new places. Your journey will be worthwhile.
Ahdaf Soueif – The map of love – 1999