DubaiReader's Reviews > Lyrics Alley

Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela
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's review
Mar 07, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: ew-pm-bk-grp, 2011
Read from March 07 to April 01, 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 quite a family tradition.
The remaining characters are fictional, two very different wives for Nur's father - traditional, Waheeba from Sudan and fashionable Nabilah from Egypt. There is a lot of animosity between these two women, which comes to a head through Nabilah's daughter.
On the male side of the family is the patriach, Mahmoud, a forceful businessman, and his other son, Nassir, and Mahmoud's brother and business partner, Idris. There is also an interesting character, Ustaz Badr, a devout Muslim, who becomes Nur's tutor and advisor, plus Ustaz Badr's troublesome brother.
With this cast of thousands, I found the family tree at the beginning was a great help.

There is an interesting diversion into the opinions on women being allowed to wear spectacles, which was hugely frowned on by some members of such circles and all of these events are woven into the politics of a Sudan ruled by both Egypt and Britain, as it starts to exert its independance.
This was a book group read and made for an interesting evening's discussion.
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04/30 marked as: read

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