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Lyrics Alley

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  808 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews
Lyrics Alley is the evocative story of an affluent Sudanese family shaken by the shifting powers in their country and the near-tragedy that threatens the legacy they've built for decades.

In 1950's Sudan, the powerful Abuzeid dynasty has amassed a fortune through their trading firm. With Mahmoud Bey at its helm, they can do no wrong. But when Mahmoud's son, Nur, the brillia
ebook, 0 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published 2010)
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Jun 08, 2011 Kinga rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this is another saga about a patriarchal family in exotic setting. Don't you love those? Publishers sure do - there is a new one every two weeks.

'Lyrics Alley' starts bizarrely with a family tree, even though there are only two generations on it - two brothers and their children. Who needs a tree? Please, I am a pro! I eat your tree for breakfast. I read Hundred Years of Solitude and got that under control and let me tell you there were about twelve generations, three hundred characters and a
Mar 26, 2011 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: morocco

There is something seductive about this book. It is not just the poetry of the books poet Nur, his absolute and pure love for his cousin Soraya which drives his every word and thought and which continues to move and inspire him even when these are all he can move, but more, for this is a book which starts very slowly then you suddenly find yourself immersed into its very real sense of story, of time, of place. The differences between Mahmoud’s two wives, younger second wife Nabil
Jennifer D
Lyrics Alley has some very beautiful moments but is a disjointed novel that never really pulls it together by the end. It is a quick and compelling story but the reasons for being pulled into the novel - the setting, the tragedy the characters, wondering about the outcomes - end up being less than fully realized. I was left dissatisfied, unfortunately, yet I am open to reading more by this author. I wonder, though, given the setting and political climate of the time (Sudan & Egypt, 1951 & ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I knew nothing of Sudan or its history and culture before reading this book. I inhaled it in 48 hrs, reading till midnight each night. Not even a "reader's headache" could make me put it down. That's how engaging Ms Aboulela's prose is. Set in the 1950s at a time of unrest in the entire region (independence/Suez crisis/etc).

The story begins with the illness of the patriarch, Mahmoud. He apparently nearly slipped into a "diabetic coma" at some point and is spending weeks in bed as his family and
Starting in Sudan, shifting to Egypt and then back again, this is the story of the family of an astute Sudanese businessmen, his two squabbling wives - one conservative Sudanese, the other a much more liberal Egyptian - and his two eldest sons who are married and engaged respectively to the daughters of his much more traditional brother.

It highlights the changing political and cultural climate of 1950 when Egypt and Sudan were politically joined at the hip with a ruling monarchy in Egypt and wh
May 29, 2011 DubaiReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ew-pm-bk-grp, 2011
Well worth reading.

I really enjoyed this novel, set in Sudan and Egypt in the 1950s.
It covers a lot of ground, but the story at the centre is the true relationship between Sudan's famous poet and songwriter, Hassan Awad Aboulela and his childhood sweetheart, represented as Nur and Soraya in the novel. They were cousins, betrothed from a young age, until a serious accident changed everything. Hassan Awad Aboulela was Leila Aboulela's uncle and although he died before she was born, he remained qui
Mohannad El-tayeb
Jun 11, 2012 Mohannad El-tayeb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leila Aboulela 's Novel is a wonderful piece, it takes you in a journey to the Sudan in the period before and during independence, it showed many customs, traditions, real places that were at that time. It also went to Egypt to show the contrast between these two countries at that time, and to show also similarities and bonds that were exited between these countries.

The Novel is based on a true story which is Hassan Awad Aboulela's (Leila Aboulela's Uncle) life story, a famous poet from the 1950
A lukewarm like. 3.0, not 3.1. A number of themes at work - political history of Sudan and Egypt, as reflected in the storyline of the patriarch; culture-peeking (man with two wives, patriarch as absolute ruler, clash of traditional vs modern Africa); family dynamics with their usual soap opera type baggage; early dawning of the emergence of women's rights. So many threads, but none really strongly developed. The writing is serviceable but not notable - "meets expectations" I guess. Too much on ...more
May 14, 2011 Rachelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was able to see Leila Aboulela at the Writer's Center in Maryland. Amazing. I really enjoyed this book! So much of the culture rang true - going to Alexandria to the beach. Learned so much about the history between Sudan and Egypt.
May 16, 2015 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems that I hardly ever read books written in English and when I do, it's so easy to read that it's like falling off a chair. When I started this one, I thought it was too easy and too happy and flowed too quickly and I was suspicious of it. But maybe that was just the ease of reading it and that yes, in the beginning of the book, all was easy and happy, but life changes and it's not happily ever after for everyone, even if they don't exactly live a hard life.

Lyrics Alley is set in Sudan but
May 14, 2015 eilasoles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

People - particularly americans - like to talk on the 'Oppression of Muslim Women.' Lyrics alley touches upon the practice of clitoridectomy. But I didn't come away believing that this happened because of Islamic culture. Words like 'patriarchal' drip very easily off our tongues and I think we need to think twice. I'm not making a case for cultural relativism - it's far too simplistic and intellectually lazy and has always felt a bit unsound to me (if there are no absolute rules, how does one ge
Oct 03, 2015 Norain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were to judge this book based on literary value, the most I would give was three stars. The style of writing was simple and light-hearted, but too simple and easygoing to be called great. Good maybe, but not great. For non-English speakers who want to try reading English fiction, you can start from this. And, oh yeah, the editor deserve a good spanking for letting some obvious mistakes went unnoticed (but just a spanking; the only editor that should be slapped or even killed is Hilal Asyraf ...more
It's a nice saga about big arabian family, who by marriage joins traditions of two countries – Sudan and Egypt. But it doesn't mean calm coexistence, rather conflict beetwen two worlds – one full of traditions and rites and second one, more westernized. The writer from the muslim point of view shows us which values should win and which finally win. Interesting especially for our western world which very often sinks in chaos.
The book is full of arabian atmosphere, we can really smell an air, dry
Vikas Datta
Jul 11, 2015 Vikas Datta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Captivating tale of a land long in thrall to its northern neighbour on the cusp of independence and the all too familar conflict between tradition and modernity, as seen through one family, already crippled by a major tragedy... Brings 1950s Sudan to life
Feb 20, 2012 Raidene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I may have given this book 4 stars if I hadn't read that some reviewers were comparing the author to the highly esteemed Egyptian novelist and Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz. Mahfouz's monumental work, The Cairo Trilogy, is much deeper in scope and breadth than Aboulela's story, written over many years.
But, both authors represent the much needed Arabic voice in contemporary literature and offer similar themes of domestic and famly life in male dominated cultures(Egypt and Sudan).
Aboulela do
Edina Truth-Jones
May 15, 2011 Edina Truth-Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found the juxtapositions between Sudan and Egypt, tradition and advancement, pain and love to be extremely well persuaded through out the whole story. Totally engrossed in all the characters lives, it took me a while to acquaint with, but found everybody worthy of my attention.

I will not fail to mention the author's ability to invoke the human in me, the absolute empathy with some and rage with others. I hope all that read this pay close attention to ALL traditions, as some are perpetrated to b
Tagwa Warrag
Mar 14, 2015 Tagwa Warrag rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, breathtaking book that would take you to Sudan and Umdurman 60 years back. And how beautiful time it was. No one would have illustrated it this way.

And since it was based on a true story, I went searching for the poems and songs mentioned on the book, and asked Baba about the streets, cafés and places.

In the middle of reading this book I had dreams about Soraya, Nur ... Blury dreams ...
Nur is a very beautiful person. I wished that I had a cousin like Nur. I was so attached to him,
Jul 16, 2014 Becki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kitaab
This book languished far too long on my "to-read" shelf. It is an overall great story, and really a massive literary and social undertaking that was well executed in just 300 pages. It highlighted many social issues--not just the predictable one of gender, but also of class, disability, political affiliation, religion, modernization--brilliantly. I feel the character best written was that of Mahmoud, as I felt I was experiencing the conflicting forces of his beloved Sudanese traditions with his ...more
Feb 22, 2015 Eileen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Reviews of this book compared it to “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie which made me really want to read it since I enjoyed that book. I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed because neither the plot nor the style of writing come close to the heart tugging nature of Adiche’s work. The only thing that these two books have in common is that they are set during a time of political conflict/change in Africa and the narrative follows the effects on characters from a wealthy fami ...more
Nice book but... The story doesn't proceed with the same momentum it started with. The second half of the book becomes a bit boring. There is a lot of repetition and it feels that different characters are lecturing us about their lives and about the changes the country was going through. Although there were lots of detail about life in Sudan and Egypt, it was clear that the author was describing what she didn't see or experience. It wasn't very authentic.
Nancy Groves
This novel is set in Sudan during the 1950s, looking at the lives of a wealthy, influential Muslim family. One of the themes is the tension between tradition and modernity or change. The patriarch has two wives: his first wife is Sudanese and prefers to live a traditional life based on home and family, while his much younger, second wife is Egyptian and wants to live a cosmopolitan life in the city, going to theaters, restaurants, shopping, etc. The younger generations also reflect these two wor ...more
Holly S. Warah
Historical fiction set in Sudan & Egypt.... While I enjoyed the settings and themes of this novel, I had trouble getting drawn into the story. Perhaps because there is a lot of switching between characters... Illuminating, informative, authentically detailed .... but not a page-turning story.

Ola Hisham
A story that introduces you the life of the Sudanese people during the 1950's. I loved experiencing the old Sudan through the book, even though how incomplete the story seemed to me.
Mocha Girl
Really a 3.5 star read....
Apr 26, 2014 Paola rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, north-africa
It is a pity that what struck me most in this book were mostly the aspects which work less well than those that did, and this is probably because this happens mostly in the second half of the novel.

In the first part the characters are drawn quite vividly, for instance by having different voices describing the same episodes from different points of view, or with many little details that help chisel a three-dimensional figure for each of the characters. Most chapters centre arounda single charact
Jan 28, 2014 Ella rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ik heb de Nederlandse uitgave gelezen maar die kon ik niet vinden op Goodreads. De schrijfster groeide op in Soedan, Engeland en Schotland.
Het gaat over een gegoede familie die tussen de oude tradities en de moderne wereld in staat. Mahmoud Abuzeid is de patriarch en een succesvol zakenman. Zijn eerste vrouw is een Soedanese waarbij hij twee zonen heeft. Zijn tweede vrouw is veel jonger en komt uit Caïro. Ook zij krijgt twee kinderen een zoon en een dochter. Zijn broer heeft twee dochters die te
Mar 04, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have few chances to see clearly into two other cultures that are foreign to us. In this case, a rich Father (Mahmoud Abuzeid) with two wives: one from the Sudan (Hajjah Waheeba: uneducated, old style beliefs, unattractive) and one ( Nabilah: modern, self based, attractive, and younger) from Cairo, Egypt. Inspired by the author's uncle's experience,the story centers on the consequences of cultural actions by each character on a daily basis. We get involved with the tension of two wives and the ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Felice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Author Lelia Aboulela brings us inside the closed world of a prosperous home in 1950's Sudan. In the larger world at this time Sudan was about to gain it's independence from Egypt and Great Britain and embark on a series of civil wars but those events are barely touched on in Lyrics Alley. That side of life is not what this novel is about. Lyrics Alley is smaller in scale and bigger in humanity.

Despite a lifestyle dedicated to custom, Mahmoud Abuzeid is a forward thinking man. He has successfull
Jul 27, 2013 Garry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first impression of this book was the gaudy pink and yellow cover that made me feel embarrassed to be seen walking through the streets with it tucked under my arm.... (honestly, I managed to pick the WORST edition....)

Anyway, Lyrics Alley is set in 1950's Sudan, at the time of independence from British colonial rule. Research tells me that this was a turbulent time that marked the start of years of conflict. Fear not though; none of this is evident in this book.

Lyrics Alley is the melodramati
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Middle East/North...: Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela - Sudan 4 15 Apr 05, 2011 02:09AM  
  • So Vast the Prison
  • The Swimmer
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  • The Hairdresser of Harare
  • Beneath the Lion's Gaze
  • Black Mamba Boy
  • The Birth of Love
  • Oil on Water
  • An Elegy for Easterly: Stories
  • The Memory of Love
  • Reading the Ceiling
  • The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives
  • On Black Sisters Street
  • Everything Good Will Come
  • I Do Not Come to You by Chance
  • Repeat It Today with Tears
  • Song for Night
Leila Aboulela grew up in Khartoum, Sudan where she attended the Khartoum American School and Sister School. She graduated from Khartoum University in 1985 with a degree in Economics and was awarded her Masters degree in statistics from the London School of Economics. She lived for many years in Aberdeen where she wrote most of her works while looking after her family; she currently lives and lect ...more
More about Leila Aboulela...

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