Longlisted for the Orange Prize 2011
'A story for all the senses' Aminatta Forna
'A superb family epic . . . vivid, beautifully original' The Herald
Set in 1950s Sudan, Lyrics Alley is the story of the powerful and sprawling Abuzeid dynasty. With Mahmoud Bey at its helm, the family can do no wrong. But when Mahmoud's son, Nur - the brilliant, charming heir to his business empire - suffers a near-fatal accident, his hopes of university and a glittering future are dashed. Subsequently, his betrothal to his cousin and sweetheart, Soraya is broken off.
As British rule is coming to an end, and the country is torn between modernising influences and the call of traditions past, the family is divided. Mahmoud's second wife, Nabilah, longs to return to Egypt and leave behind the dust of 'backward-looking' Sudan. His first wife, Waheeba, is confined to her open-air kitchen and resents Nabilah's influence on Mahmoud. Meanwhile, Nur must find a way to live again in the world and find peace. Moving from the villages of Sudan to cosmopolitan Cairo and a decimated post-colonial Britain, this is a sweeping tale of love, loss, faith and reconciliation.
Aboulela's third novel, inspired by the life of her uncle, the poet Hassan Awad Aboulela, offers a delightfully quixotic view of northern Sudan in the 1950s on the brink of its independence from Britain and Egypt. Nur is the favored son of the wealthy Abuzeid family, destined to take over the family business, until he is severely injured in an accident. Mahmoud, Nur's father, is both optimist and pragmatist, eager to embrace contemporary mores yet firmly rooted to his homeland. Mahmoud's two wives Nur's deeply traditional and veiled mother, Waheeba, and Nabilah, a young and homesick Egyptian have conflicts that swell and erupt in both predictable and surprising ways. The characters are lovingly and precisely rendered, and Aboulela (The Translator) describes the impact of Nur's disability with keen detail and noteworthy empathy. Though the novel offers few glimpses into life outside the Abuzeid's sheltered enclave, paying scant attention to the history and turmoil of an era that left Sudan in a lengthy civil war, Aboulela provides fine insight into the practice of Islam, especially through the children's tutor's thoughts and words, as well as a thoroughly engaging if romanticized exploration of the universal tensions between modernity and tradition, commerce and art, faith and doubt.
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captivating era will written
Captivating! Amazing yet mellow and bitter-sweet sadness. Tells the tale of two young people, in love and intending to marry only to have fate tragically wipe away their plans. Set in Old Sudan and then Old Egypt, it sets about the contrast and similarities of two cultures dynamically illustrated by the Abuzeid family, servants and friends. A must read!