Plot Summary. Chapter 1. Chapter 2. Chapter 3. Chapter 4. Chapter 5. Chapter 6. What other factors in Omar's personal life underlie his reluctance to become involved with a young American woman? Sharif marries Anna despite cultural and political sanctions against their union. Why is it easier for Sharif to commit to marriage to Anna that it is for Omar to commit to Isabel? When Isabel meets Amal's friends, Amal writes, "That is the first thing you notice, I think, when you look at these three women: Awra and Deena, with faint circles under their eyes, a slight droop in their shoulders, a certain dullness of skin, look worn.
While Isabel, shining with health and a kind of innocent optimism, looks brand new" [p. What is the significance of this passage in terms of the themes of the novel? Does Amal see Isabel's "innocent optimism" as a positive or negative quality? Is Isabel less innocent at the end of the novel?
Amal's former professor says to the young Egyptian activists, "Do you realise, when you speak of a political programme, that your programme now is the same that Mahmoud Sami al-Baroudi's government tried to establish more than a hundred years ago?
Are they, as Mustafa argues, "a nation of cowards—we live by slogans" [p. To what extent have their ambitions been thwarted by the long period of English occupation and Western antagonism and disdain toward Arabic culture and civilization? Look Inside Reading Guide. Reading Guide. Booker Prize Finalist Here is an extraordinary cross-cultural love story that unfurls across Egypt, England, and the United States over the course of a century. Isabel Parkman, a divorced American journalist, has fallen in love with a gifted and difficult Egyptian-American conductor.
Shadowing her romance is the courtship of her great-grandparents Anna and Sharif nearly one hundred years before. In the recently widows Anna Winterbourne left England for Egypt, an outpost of the Empire roiling with political sentiment. She soon found herself enraptured by the real Egypt and in love with Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi, an Egyptian nationalist. Combining the romance and intricate narrative of a nineteenth-century novel with a very modern sense of culture and politics—both sexual and international—Ahdaf Soueif has created a thoroughly seductive and mesmerizing tale.
She leaves Egypt as promised, losing her only remaining family in the process. As the disastrous ending of Anna and Sharif's marriage makes clear, the romance here cannot unite the nation and refuses to justify colonialism; instead, it serves to highlight the unattainable ideal of a transnational partnership of open- minded intellectuals committed to a new political dispensation.
Friendship, Art, and the Turn to Activism  While this partnership proves unsustainable via heterosexual romance, it does in fact take shape through the intense relationships between the different women.
The men, while noble, are frequently absent and ultimately doomed to death, leaving the women to make sense of the past and construct genealogies of resistance to serve them in the present. The earliest of these friendships, the turn-of-the-twentieth-century friendship between Anna and Layla, is perhaps the least developed in the book.
The two women meet when Anna is kidnapped by Layla's relatives, who want to use the ransom of a British man to gain Layla's husband's release from jail. When they discover that they have in fact kidnapped a woman in men's clothing, the men are at a loss and deliver Anna to Layla's brother's house.
Under these unlikely circumstances, while they all wait for Sharif to return and decide how to resolve this potentially explosive problem, Layla and Anna become instant friends, speaking in French, their only shared language.
Layla immediately recognizes herself in Anna's attempt to know Egypt, having herself been a frustrated stranger in France: It was a pity Anna was going away tomorrow; she could imagine so many things they could do together, so many things she could show her, this woman who had come across Europe and the Mediterranean Sea to find Egypt, and who had confided yesterday that she felt it had eluded her, that she had touched nothing at all. Layla understood what she meant, for what would she have known of France had she not been befriended by Juliette Clemenceau?
As readers, we know that Isabel is in love with Amal's brother, but he is barely present in the book and presumed dead by its end. Instead, it is Amal and Isabel's relationship that unfolds, and there is no sense that Isabel, an orphan like Anna, will return to the U. While the colonial romance narrative of Sharif and Anna's era seems inextricable from the framework of the heterosexual romance, the unconventional family composed of Amal, Isabel, and Isabel and Omar's newborn son, Sharif, becomes at the end of the novel a model for personal and political survival out of the failure of romance.
Isabel has lost Omar to political violence. She misses her sons terribly and thrills at baby Sharif's arrival in her family. Uniting Pharonic iconography with Islamic text in a composition inflected by her own tradition of Christian hagiography, Anna's artwork commented on the complexity of the modern Egypt her husband's nationalist movement was willing into being.
After Sharif's death, a family servant had divided up the tapestry, giving the panel with Osiris to Anna and the one with Isis to Amal's father. The panel of the baby Horus was lost, but magically reappears in Isabel's bag at the end of the novel after her son's birth. The tapestry's trinity of the nuclear family gets mapped onto the contemporary trinity of Amal, Isabel, and baby Sharif.
Similarly, when Amal and Isabel travel back to Cairo from Tawasi, they stop along the roadside to let the car cool down. To shade the baby from the sun, they use the family's old flag of national unity, a symbol of Muslim-Christian coalition against the British that had been wielded in women's street protests in the early twentieth century.
I argue that it is because the novel is first and foremost a romance with the past. To make sense of the book's reconfiguration of the romance, then, we must consider the relationship between Amal and Anna as the most important one in the book. From the beginning, Amal's identification with Anna proves central to Amal's political rebirth by allowing her to meditate upon the political potential of art under repressive conditions and as a vehicle for understanding coalition in not only spatial but temporal terms.
Telling Anna's story provides Amal with a political genealogy; she falls in love with national heroes such as her grandfather, Sharif, through Anna's descriptions and identifies with their struggle to stay committed to their political fight in hopeless times that mirror the present. Writing Anna's story absorbs Amal to the point that she loses sense of where and when she is: Looking up from Anna's journal I am, for a moment, surprised to find myself in my own bedroom.
I had been so utterly in that scene. My heart had beaten in time with Anna's, my lips had wanted her lover's kiss. I shake myself free and. Who else has read this journal? And when they read it, did they too feel that it spoke to them? The Ahdaf Soueif presents two tales to provide a bridge across nations and generations. The map of love is a continuing tapestry of life. Soueif is a gifted writer and presents a compelling tale in a lyrical and poetic manner. She invites the reader into the life stories of Anna and Sharif.
It is a story that cannot be happily ever after, but is mesmerizing. Amal is an intriguing character whose complete story is hidden behind the tapestry of Anna and Sharif and Isabel and Omar.
Anna also is an interesting character. A young woman haunted by the death of her husband who she feels she didn't love enough. Anna travels to Egypt to seek redemption and solace. This book can be difficult in the sense that the reader is given much one sided information about the development of Egypt in the twentieth century.
It is hard to put into context and does not necessarily help in the telling of the story. However it is a story about politics and nations and how they effect are lives and who we love and the effort it takes to rise above these walls. This is a book for anyone who appreciates a good love story and is willing to move at the pace of Amal who takes one piece of the map of love out of the trunk at a time.
Mar 09, Tania Gee rated it liked it Shelves: best-middle-east-fiction. I would rate it a 3, but only because of my own personal tastes, not because of any real flaw with the book. Have you ever felt like you should be enjoying a book more, like there is really no reason why you shouldn't be, and you know others would love it, and yet you're still left just slightly dissatisfied with the book yourself?
This was such a book for me. I believe The Map of Love to be essential reading for anyone interested in Egyptian cult 3. I believe The Map of Love to be essential reading for anyone interested in Egyptian culture, politics and history, which I am.
I think this book is more like a 4 Star by general standards, I'm just not such a huge fan of historical fiction and its tropes, so I found it went on a bit too long, but I don't think most people would.
This is a historical fiction based on the events happening in Egypt in the early s and late s. It is told from the perspective of three intelligent, politically minded women. This is not a point of view often explored, and I enjoyed learning so much about such fascinating, if troubled, times in such a beautiful, yet often misunderstood, place. I sucked up every ounce of political history and loved it.
I loved learning more Arabic vocabulary as I listen to a lot of Middle Eastern music and, I'll admit it, I loved knowing some of the musical references made in the novel to those such as Om Kalthoum. Interestingly, I very much connected with the character of Isabel, which surprised me for some reason. I might write more coherently about this later, but that's all for the moment folks! Oct 18, Barbara Bryant rated it it was amazing Shelves: popsugar-challenge.
In the Egyptian room in the British Museum in London I stood, the Rosetta Stone inches away from me: Large, smooth, cool dark gray, inscribed with precise characters on every side. Hushed with awe to contemplate how many centuries it has existed. Mysterious yet comprehensible, strangely beautiful in its profound, silent eloquence. Time passes, yet their experiences are timeless. In the eternal culture of Egypt, thr In the Egyptian room in the British Museum in London I stood, the Rosetta Stone inches away from me: Large, smooth, cool dark gray, inscribed with precise characters on every side.
In the eternal culture of Egypt, three women find love and home in ways they never could in America and England. Isabel's project, to record how timeless Egypt experiences the new millennium, quickly disintegrates as her originally objective viewpoint becomes very personal.
A hundred years earlier, Anna abandons England to embrace Egypt on every level, even as her experiences strengthen then break her heart. And Amal bridges both their worlds as she pieces together the fragments of their family within the vast history, geography, culture, politics, and spirit of Egypt. Dreaming us all, her children: those of us who stay and work for her and complain of her, and those who leave and yearn for her and blame her with bitterness for driving them away.
Oct 30, Christin added it. I really enjoyed this book. I am partial to multi-character and multi-generational narratives and this novel spans a very interesting part of Egyptian history. Seeing historical events like the Urabi revolt or various developments in Palestine from this fictional, first-person narrative perspective was engaging, though I have to say that some characters gripped me more than others.
I found myself looking forward to the sections of Anna's letters i. I would have preferred if the author had reigned it in at some points though.