Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: A Lady Cyclists's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

Title:A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
Author:Suzanne Joinson
Bloomsbury USA
Pub. Date:6/4/2012
ISBN:1608198111 (ISBN13: 9781608198115)

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

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

Eva is going on a grand adventure. With her sister Lizzie and her acquaintance Millicent, they are traveling to Kashgar as missionaries. It's a treacherous road for 3 women in the 1920's, but Eva is determined to make the best of it. While she is traveling, Eva is writing a guide for cycling to Kashgar. Back in the present, Freida is a world traveler. She loves the freedom of being able to leave and experience so many wonderful places. Soon though, she meets Tayeb, a man trying to avoid deportation to his native Yemen. She also learns that she is responsible for an apartment full of stuff left to her by a person she has never met. The tales of Freida, Tayeb, and Eva all intermingle as they each work their way through their separate adventures.

This book wasn't at all what I expected. There are two main stories, and it is unclear how they are related for quite a bit. I loved the way they tied in, but I wish the author had dropped a few more clues along the way. I had kind of figured it out, but the payoff felt a little late for me. I loved the feel of the book though. Eva is basically using the mission and missionaries for a chance to see the world. I thought she was a great character. Freida and Tayeb were a bit more difficult to get a feeling for. I also felt like their story had slightly less resolution too. I was very interested in their stories though. I was really drawn into this book, and there were some great surprises too.

Millicent was perhaps the most interesting person in the book. I really wanted some more back story on her, although it really wouldn't have fit in the context of the story. When things were finally brought together in the end, it was nice to see it all make sense. Overall I found this to be a really absorbing and fascinating story.

Galley provided for review.

No comments: