Soueif, Ahdaf. THE MAP OF LOVE. 2000. Bloomsbury Publishing. London. UK.

This is wonderful sweep of fiction across a century of people and their place in society, war, oppression, and cultural differences in the vast and complex history of North Africa. Its colonial past and the seeds of contemporary violence in Egypt and Palestine are woven into the development of two love stories, one hundred years apart, both highly unconventional for their times.

Anna Winterbourne is the widow of a soldier who was emotionally destroyed by his role in the British massacre of Sudan where, “An army of 7000 British and 20000 Egyptian soldiers lose 48 men and kills 11000 dervishes and wounds 16000 in the space of 6 hours”. …Sadly out–armed the Sudanese fought with spears as, “Men impassioned by an idea of freedom and justice in their own land.” And today the seeds of those colonial tragedies resonate across our television screens.

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif: A Book Review by Theresa Wolfwood.

Egyp today. Photo © Theresa Wolfwood.

She goes to Egypt to find answers to her husband’s trauma, becomes immersed in the nationalist struggles of Egyptians, suffering under European domination and falls in love.

Almost one hundred years later her descendent, Isobel Parkman, falls in love with an Egyptian conductor and tries to piece together their connection revealed in evocative letters found in an old trunk. She and Amal, her lover’s sister, who has her own struggles with present day corruption and injustice in Egypt, unfold the story of their common heritage.

Amal is trying to preserve the life of her home village, but a friend with globalized profits in mind – and more – wants to modernize and maximize agriculture. He says, “…If land is to be viable, it has to pay.”

And she replies, “Yes, but can’t it pay just a little? Why does it have to keep paying more and more? I don’t understand all this growth business – surely growth can’t be infinite, can it?” A question that can be asked anywhere in today”s world.

The wonderful and eloquent writing carry readers into an amazing insight into past politics and history and to a clear understanding of current struggles for justice. With the appeal of totally believable and sympathetic characters of widely different cultures and times, we are held enthralled and captivated through 500 pages and a century of events.

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