Graceamilion, October 1, 2013 (view all comments by Graceamilion)
Two worlds collide with the discovery of a mysterious inheritance. On one side of the globe in the 1920’s, three young women embark of an adventure along the famous Silk Road. Meanwhile on the other side of the world in present day London two young strangers bond over a beautiful illustration with a story. Decades of family tradition and mystery become unraveled as the stories come crashing together.
nrlymrtl, September 14, 2013 (view all comments by nrlymrtl)
This is a rich and heavy book, full of inner contemplation and sometimes doubts by the main characters. Suzanne Joinson shows the complexities of human interactions simply through the eyes of two women (Eva & Frieda) who exist decades apart. Each has her own clash with foreign cultures in different ways, and each are changed forever by those clashes. This book started off intense with the birth of a baby, but then mellowed out considerably as the reader gained more info on the characters and their surroundings. Indeed, I was a little concerned for a bit as to whether or not the book would pick up again, but it did, and I am glad I stuck with it. I enjoyed how Joinson showed the unrealistic expectations of the English ladies in the early 1900s Kashgar with their English meals three times a day, etc. At first there was a fair amount of religious talk from Millicent and Lizzie, but this became balanced by Eva’s hesitancy to shove religious believes and culture on the local people.
The missionary stuff is also balanced by modern-day Frieda, who is English but not Caucasian nor particularly religious. Her separated parents have had a variety of believes throughout Frieda’s childhood. Indeed, there was a scene with a water wand that was pretty amusing. At a later point in the story, Frieda feels she must find her mother, who left her and her father when Frieda was young, to have some of her questions answered. Her father helps her track her mother to a commune, where we learn not only a few interesting philosophical believes, but also key pieces to the story. Frieda’s interactions with Tayeb are sometimes awkward but also on a much more equal footing than the high & mighty Millicent to the unwashed masses of Kashgar. The difference between these sets of interactions cleverly shows how globalization has done much to break down cultural barriers.
Now you have heard all the things I enjoyed about this book. There was really just two things that didn’t click for me, one of which is that lull in the story I already mentioned. The second thing is there are several minor characters and one key secondary character there are gay and with the exception of one of those characters, all are portrayed in a bad light. Indeed, one outright takes advantage of another person, two others beat the snot out of another character, and a fourth is rather uncaring and a bit of snot to one of our main characters. Without the one kind-hearted gay person we find later in the book, I was starting to wonder if the author had an issue with homosexuality in general. While a very minor part of the book, I did feel it gave it a slight unbalanced quality and it detracted a bit on my personal enjoyment of the book.
Joan B, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Joan B)
Loved, loved, loved the juxtaposition of two women--one in early 20th century Central Asia and the other in modern-day London. Both absorbing cultures not their own, both rescuers. Want more from the author!
Vulgar and blunt, yet achingly rhymatic in a harmonious prose that seeps into your conscienceness. The text challenges your preconceptions of the literary world but dares you to connect to the stark harshness of the locale. A foreign world that blinks through your mind, flirting with your imagination, such as a film reel spun out of control. The brutal observations are written in such a lush descriptive narrative that words congeal together nearly at too fast of a pace. There is a disconnection in dichotomy between the lives of the protagonists and the interplay of the native land.
Five women, four of the past, one of the present, set off on a journey that none of them signed up to partake in. They are cast into an impossible sequence of circumstances that lead three of them to a journey towards personal enlightenment. It is these women who stand out to the unsuspecting reader as the main voices of the evolving story: Evangeline, Ai-Lien, and Frieda. You become a purveyor of their thoughts and emotions as one might discover whilst digging through a personal diary. Intimately real and hauntingly shocking. Their fragility and frailties split open and raw on the printed page.
I received a review copy of this novel through Book Browse's First Impressions program in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinion or views therein.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Present and past meld into an exploration of conflicting traditions in an impressive debut that shifts smoothly between 1920s Turkestan and present-day England. In 1923, Evangeline (Eva) English accompanies her fragile sister, Lizzie, on a missionary trip to the ancient Chinese-ruled Muslim city of Kashgar under the supervision of the stern Millicent Frost, who suspects, accurately, that Eva, with her prized bicycle — a 'glorious, green BSA Lady's Roadster' — and passion for writing, is more interested in adventure than proselytizing. Surprisingly (and disappointingly), Eva's story is lacking in cycling and exciting exploits. In the present day, well-traveled but stuffy researcher Frieda Blakeman is startled by the appearance of both a letter deeming her the next-of-kin of a recently deceased woman, and Tayeb, an illegal Yemeni immigrant who takes refuge outside her London apartment. Though Frieda and Tayeb's growing bond and the unfolding revelations of the modern story are more compelling than Eva's frustratingly limited experiences and the unpleasantly stereotyped Millicent, Joinson has created in Frieda's unusual history and the parallel struggles of Tayeb and Eva as outsiders and observers an intriguing window into the difficulties of those who attempt to reach across cultural barriers. Map. Agent: Rachel Calder, the Sayle Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Helen Simonson, bestselling author of Major Pettigrews Last Stand,
"An astonishing epic — colonial-era travel combined with a modern meditation on where we belong and how we connect in the world — I could not put it down."
by Paul Torday, bestselling author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,
"A haunting, original, and beautifully written tale that conveys a sense of profound alienation and of other realities."
by Library Journal, starred review,
"Beautifully written in language too taut, piercing, and smartly observed to be called lyrical, this atmospheric first novel immediately engages, nicely reminding us that odd twists of fate sometimes aren't that odd. Highly recommended."
"This complex and involving historical novel examines the idea of home, the consequences of exile, the connection between mother and daughter, and the power dynamics of sexual relationships."
Like Major Pettigrew's Last Stand or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a wondrous, richly conceived, irresistible debut novel that sweeps the reader away to a different world.
It is 1923. Evangeline (Eva) English and her sister Lizzie are missionaries heading for the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. Though Lizzie is on fire with her religious calling, Eva's motives are not quite as noble, but with her green bicycle and a commission from a publisher to write A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, she is ready for adventure.In present day London, a young woman, Frieda, returns from a long trip abroad to find a man sleeping outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and a pillow, and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and an exquisite drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some delicate Arabic writing, and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar explores the fault lines that appear when traditions from different parts of an increasingly globalized world crash into one other. Beautifully written, and peopled by a cast of unforgettable characters, the novel interweaves the stories of Frieda and Eva, gradually revealing the links between them and the ways in which they each challenge and negotiate the restrictions of their societies as they make their hard-won way toward home. A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar marks the debut of a wonderfully talented new writer.
In 1923, missionaries Eva English and her sister, Lizzie, travel to the ancient city of Kashgar on the Silk Road. Lizzie is on fire with her religious calling, but Eva, with her green bicycle and a commission from a publisher to write A Lady Cyclists Guide to Kashgar, is ready for adventure.
In present-day London, a young woman finds a man sleeping outside her front door. The next morning, the bedding she lent him is neatly folded and there is an exquisite drawing on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda, and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.
A Lady Cyclists Guide to Kashgar interweaves the unforgettable stories of Frieda and Eva—and the ways in which they challenge and negotiate the restrictions of their societies as they make their hard-won way towards home—and explores the fault lines that appear when traditions from different parts of an increasingly globalized world crash into each one another.
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