Lyrics Alley
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Lyrics Alley

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  591 ratings  ·  134 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...more
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Published March 1st 2011 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published 2010)
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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...more

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...more
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
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...more
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
Norain MT
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...more
Mohannad El-tayeb
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...more
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...more
Edina Truth-Jones
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...more
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
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.
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.

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.
Mocha Girl
Really a 3.5 star read....
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...more
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...more
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

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...more
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...more
Regina Lindsey
Lyric Alley by Leilia Aboulelia
4 Stars

Loosely based on the life of the author’s poet uncle Hassan Awad Aboulela , Lyric Alley is set against the backdrop of Sudanese independence from Anglo-Egyptian rule. It is a story full of contrasts and, ultimately, love and hope.

The story is character driven rather than plot driven. The older and successful Sudanese business man, Mahmoud, marries Egyptian Nabilah and brings her from Cairo into a Sudanese household with a co-wife, Waheedba. The wives are a s...more
Heather Goodman
Though it took me some time to find the rhythm of the book (the prose was more formal than my usual fare), the beauty of the story drew me in. Leila Aboulela tells the story of a family dealing with the paralysis of its wunderkind son, the one who displayed athleticism, intellect, and commitment to hard work. He was expected to marry his childhood sweetheart and take over the family business. But an accident has changed all that.
Aboulela writes to answer the question, "Why do bad things happen t...more
Beautifully written.

This is my favourite of Leila Aboulela's novels. Like its title, her prose is always lyrical, and Lyrics Alley has an added confidence in its writing.

The novel is set in the 1950s as Sudan approaches independence from the UK. I knew little about Sudan's history, and this is deftly woven into the novel, without dominating it. Lyrics Alley is based on the true story of Aboulela's uncle, who turned to poetry after an accident.

In Lyrics Alley, Mahmoud Abuzeid is a prosperous b...more
The future for the Abuzeid family looks secure. Mahmoud, the head of the family, runs a successful business empire with the help of his brother Idris, the hindrance of his eldest son Nassir and with a potential heir in his younger son Nur. There is some conflict in the family between Mahmoud's first wife Waheeba, who is illiterate and traditionalist, and his second wife Nabilah, who is educated and modern, but nothing Mahmoud thinks he can't deal with. Soraya has a few disagreements with her fat...more
Jackie Molloy
The illness of Mahmoud Abuzeid concentrated the mind on how the family patriarch effected the whole family as well as both his family in Sudan (Umdurman) and his family in Cairo. Hajjah Waheeba was the queen bee in Sudan whilst Nabilah was the jewel in Cairo. The accident befalling Nur leaving him a quadriplegic was impossible for the family to come to terms with and they didn’t really recover. Nur developed his skills as a poet and became famous whilst the family did not change at all. The situ...more
Tracy Terry
Set mainly in the Sudan and Egypt of the 1950's, Lyrics Alley, though centring largely on the fictionalised real-life story of Hassan Awad Aboulela (Nur in the book), a young man who, after a tragic accident changes his life forever, goes on to become an accomplished poet, this is also the fascinating story of the old giving way to the new as shown in the story of the two wives of patriarch, Mahmoud. Two powerful women, their stories make fascinating, if sometimes, shocking reading.

Not to be dis...more
Louise Wilson
This was a book I would never have read, but for belonging to a Book Club, an excellent way of broadening one’s reading.
The book told a very sad but uplifting story in a truly empathetic and humane fashion, although I found it hard to get into at first. The unfamiliar names prompted me to refer often to the family chart at the front, until I was well into the book. I also found the references to Muslim forms of worship very unfamiliar, but the author handled those issues so well that one could...more
Leila Aboulela’s “Lyrics Alley” is built with an attractive storyline with changing viewpoints that give interesting insights into life in a Sudanese society. It is a suggestive story of a major Sudanese family that is shaken by the power changes and near tragedy which threatens a heritage that has taken decades to build.The novel’s shifting viewpoints offer interesting insights into a culture with different characters that embody the clash between modernity and tradition. There is a clash betwe...more

This is a thrilling piece of written art by Leila Abulela. She paints a clear picture of the pains of a love stopped by fate in the form of a fatal accident suffered by Nur. Not only does she excel in her writing, but also shows the ability to make a story from the pre-colonial era turn the heads of millions of modern readers, and this is intriguing, to say the least.
The book has a heavy impact on various groups in society especially the Muslim woman as it talks of her place in the Muslim religi...more
Laila Aboulela’s novel is very amazing; it shows the life in Sudan just before the independence. It offers an interesting family drama of the Middle East society, and specifically Sudanese culture and tradition, which are not very known for me. Showing the different between the two wives’ Waheeba who’s present the Sudanese heritage and tradition, and Nabella who’s show the Egyptian modernization, it create a conflict that is still being fight in our Islamic culture these days. I like the use of...more
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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
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