Niledaughter's Reviews > In the Eye of the Sun

In the Eye of the Sun by Ahdaf Soueif
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's review
Mar 31, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: east-and-west
Read from May 22 to June 17, 2010

what a heart breaking book !!
So where should start from ?!
The novel presents life between 1967 to 1980 in the middle east moving to Europe .. , so in the back ground ; we see the historical events that took place in that period ,Egypt , the wars with Israel , Palestine situation ..Jordan ..Lebanon , Saudi Arabia , Syria & Iran , the political transformation From Naser to Sadat , all the detailed changes : economically , socially , culture & even in Urban patterns .

While on the front we see the life of a family & their surroundings , through them we meet Muslims , Christians , leftists , servants , farmers , workers , the Elite .. westernized people and the fundamentalists rising,we also see the traditions ,religion ideologies , taboos , and all what concerns women , Ahdaf describes everything in so much details !

the novel’s main core is based around Asya , her life between Egypt & England in that critical period , with her eyes we adore Egypt , get introduced to England And travel to different European countries , one of the most interesting parts to me was the comparison between the life of the Nile and the life of the Thames ! in Asya's ten years journey towards maturity : we live love , romance , passion , sexuality , compassion , humiliation , abuse , failure , infidelity , regrets , bitterness , breaking down & loss !! I can not meet a personality like Asya every day with all her contradictions that present the Cultural duality values she has , but when I read Ahdaf’s biography I felt that Asya is - some how - part of her , specially in her relation with her mother & her childhood , also I can see that one of Asya’s friends in the novel seems to be inspired by Radwa Ashour - who is one of Ahdaf’s friends-and her husband Mourid Barghouti (auther of I saw Ramallah) , this gives more reality to the atmosphere ..

honestly , I hesitated at first to rate it as 4 (not because it does not deserve it) but because I thought I could not rate it as (The map of love) that captured my heart , while (In the eye of the sun) really.. really hurt my stomach With its tragedy ! beside I was very much annoyed by Asya in some parts … true I loved her ..loved her descriptions & meditation , I sympathized with her, cried with her , loved Saif with her & understood her reasons for her behavior ; but I could not justify her behavior or her cruelty to herself before anybody else !

But I decided to rate it as 5 because of Ahdaf that manage so cleverly to prevent me from letting this 800 pages book down before finishing it !! her so much full of life characters , her brilliant way that expressed human feelings & weakness , for the metaphors she used and specially for the last part of the book ! wow - It is the most painful one but so powerful : the conformations between Asya & Saif , Asya & her mother ..Asya & the mirror ..then Asya & the memories !! also the way she discussed Islam & traditions , the translations of Quraan , and from anther side Om Kulthom's songs , this was an unforgettable book !

May be The open language of the novel was a surprise to me because this was not Ahdaf’s style in ( The map of love) , but regarding that the vital problem in the main couple’s life in the novel (Asya & Saif) is sexual – although it was only the appearing part of the ice mountain in the deep ocean - so this method can be clearly understood .

Here is a very interesting review , but it has spoilers

Sorry for talking so much :(

Edit (28- 7- 2010)
I edit to add the following link , a link to Ahdaf's detailed profile in the Guardian , it shows where (Ashia) & (in the eye of the sun) intersect with her real personal life and her experiences in a critical misty area of the Common space between east & west .

this link is a symbolic analysis of the novel and the oriental reactions to it , the link is in Arabic , it is the best I read so far .
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Quotes Niledaughter Liked

Ahdaf Soueif
“You know, I've been thinking: all the women in the books you like -- Sartre and Camus and all that -- they don't really exist. Not as people. They're only there to wait for the men. To love them and be loved back or not -- mostly not; to be beaten up or killed; to appear as a face on the wall of Meurseault's cell--”
Ahdaf Soueif, In the Eye of the Sun

Ahdaf Soueif
“She had been wrong to think it wouldn't matter that much to him, yes, he took her for granted, of course he did , but he took her for granted - not like an old coat in the corner of a dark cupboard, as she'd put it to herself , but like the very air that he breathed .”
Ahdaf Soueif, In the Eye of the Sun

Ahdaf Soueif
“I haven't come to you only to take , I haven't come to you empty handed : I bring you poetry as great as yours but in anther tongue , I bring you black eyes and golden skin and curly hair , I bring you Islam and Luxor and Alexandria and Lutes and tambourines and date-palms and silk rugs and sunshine and incense and voluptuous ways”
Ahdaf Soueif, In the Eye of the Sun

Reading Progress

05/22 page 9
1.14% 2 comments
06/02 page 103
13.01% "I think Ahdaf is nasserist , but I can live 1967 bitterness .."
06/04 page 220
27.78% "Amman bloody events 1970 ..
(I have once before sent troops into Yemen , we lost more than ten thousand men there and Israel still occupies our lands. I am not prepared to send Egyptian soldiers to be killed in Jordan) ..Gamal Abd-el nasser"
06/09 page 400
50.51% "But you guys can't even agree among yourselves, let alone with the Israelis !
That is our tragedy .."
06/14 page 630
80.0% "painful .."
03/09 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal i'm planing to read this novel, and i'm sure it's great one.

message 2: by Niledaughter (last edited Jun 21, 2010 12:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter welcome back :D
Good luck with it then ;)
I hope you will like it , I noticed most of who rated ( the map of love) as 5 , rated this one as 3 , it is totally different from it , except for the political – historical background and the Literary quotation , you would think Ahdaf is someone else .. much bolder & crueler , the amount of the sexual parts prevented the book from being translated into Arabic so far (although El shorouk is negotiating to), also the infidelity is so harsh , I cannot recommend it easily as (The map of love) to every one , I judge the book as a whole .

message 3: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal I realy respect the novelist, who renew himself every time he writes a new book, that's why I hate most of the new writters. I had the chance to read the first chapter of this novel, two years ago, when I was living with an Engilsh friend, she loves to read about the middle east. I have an idea that, it is a difficult one, but it seems that you hated it.

message 4: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal Sorry, I mean that you, some how, didn't love the novel.

message 5: by Niledaughter (last edited Jun 21, 2010 01:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter So you read parts , great :)
No I did not hate it , I rated it as 5 ,I could not let it down , it touched me deeply & pushed me to think, hurt me with its tragedy & I felt so close to Asya , I do not consider disagreeing with a behavior is an enough reason to hate a book ,we are humans after all , sorry that I did not express myself clearly :o , I have a great respect for Ahdaf , her ideas & boldness , she is an excellent female tongue - specially in this one- actually I already bought (I think of you ) and I am waiting for her next novel (round 4000 BC to the present! ) , it is in her mind but she has no time for it yet :( , so I will be waiting !

The fact is that I have to make all the issues about it clear enough , because it is a hard book to be received in general ,every thing felt so real & painful ,for me .. it will last for so long time ;)

So about your English friend ; what did she think of the novel & Ahdaf ? , on the Amazon I read a review by a Jewish reader who enjoyed reading it & said she did not feel offended by Ahdaf , although Ahdaf attacted Israel in the book , but she knows how to deliver her messages ..

Citlalli Sounds like quite a story!!

message 7: by Niledaughter (last edited Jun 21, 2010 01:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter yes :) and as an Egyptian novel .. bold , even the title , (in the eye of the sun) , a proverb (If you wish to hide something, hide it in the eye of the sun ) !, you are not hiding in other words ..
so did you get (The map of love)?

message 9: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal my friend liked the novel and she bout me a copy as a wedding gift :-))
but i couldn't find a clear head till now to read it. I think I will do soon after your review.

Niledaughter How sweet of her :), it took me a decade to read :p ,so go ahead & good luck , I will be waiting for your review ;)

message 11: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal انشاء الله

Niledaughter You know , I am still unable of starting a new book , it is still in my mind & I am re-reading some parts (specially the psychological ones ) !!

message 13: by Ayat (new)

Ayat Mahmoud هو حلو اوي كده؟

Citlalli I just got an e-mail from the bookshop telling me my copy of The Map of Love has just arrived and I can collect it now. Akheeran!!!

message 15: by Niledaughter (last edited Jun 21, 2010 06:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Niledaughter Ayat wrote: "هو حلو اوي كده؟"

بالنسبة لي
انا شايف انك لسة ماقرتيش (خارطة الحب) أو (زينة الحياة) فمش عارفة ، التعليقات اللي قاريتها ان لو عاجبتك زينة الحياه هتعجبك (في عين الشمس) ان شاء الله انا هقرا زينة الحياهI think of you قريب
بصي الرابط اللي انا حاطاها في الريفيو بتاعي شارحها كويس بس هيحرقهالك
شكرا على مرورك

Niledaughter Citlalli wrote: "I just got an e-mail from the bookshop telling me my copy of The Map of Love has just arrived and I can collect it now. Akheeran!!!"

Akheeran :P , good luck then ;)

message 17: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal Hi Dear

that what happened to me when i read the map of love, I couldn't start reading another book before at least 10 days. you should read for Radwa Ashour and Omneya Talaat, they have the same magic of Ahdaf.

Niledaughter :) :) Thanks
أنا ابنديت في ثلاثية غرناطة بس لسة في الاول
أمنية طلعت ؟ هشوفها
منكم نستفيد يا فندم

message 19: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal أمنية طلعت كاتبة جديدة ومش عندها غير كتابين بس، لكن نفسها حلو جدا وبتوجع القلب زي رضوى وأهداف بالظبط

Niledaughter شكراً
أنا ضفت طعم الايام

message 21: by Amal (new) - added it

Amal عفوا يا جميل

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