The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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May 14, 2012

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar

Reading it was like being submerged, a ducking into another realm, though not into water; instead into a dry, hot place.

I put Suzanne Joinson's new novel, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, on my reading list after reading about it on Bellezza's lovely blog, and I'm grateful to Bloomsbury for sharing a preview copy with me. {The book will be published in June.} I know this is cheating, but after revisiting Bellezza's post to find the link, I wanted to direct you to her summary and to her thoughts on the book, which echo my own, and which are as beautifully written as the novel is. Besides, I so want you to meet her if you haven't yet.

The story unfolds in two intertwining streams, one the story of Millicent, Lizzie and Evangeline, three British women traveling as missionaries to Turkey in the 1920s, and the other set in present-day London as Frieda, a missionary of another, secular sort, encounters an immigrant from Yemen, an owl, and an unexpected bequest, of a bureaucratic sort, from a woman she has never heard of.  Sometimes, this kind of moving back and forth, chapter by chapter, can be jarring, but it's gracefully done here {though I did finding myself always wanting to get back to the earlier story}. The older story is told in the form of notes for a the travel guide that Evangeline  has been commissioned to write, and one of the many things I liked about Joinson's writing were the excerpts that headed each chapter, practical advice turned into poetry:

Difficulties to Overcome:  No matter what happens, keep it going, the faster the better,  until a taste is accepted for the pastime;  until the going-forward-forever idea seems to have taken possession of you.

 I also loved so much of the more evocative language in this book, including the descriptions of souks, landscapes and food, the imagery, and Joinson's way of drawing her characters. {I can't find the bookmark I inserted for one of these descriptions, but I'd rather you discovered them for yourself. :)} I guess I would add that I thought the very ending of the book was a little rushed-through, teasing us with a development perfectly in keeping with the characters she had drawn but leaving me wanting to know more. But coming to the end of this book only made me hope that Suzanne Joinson's next one wouldn't be too long in arriving.


Joan Hunter Dunn said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this, so lovely to read another great review.

Bellezza said...

So glad that you liked this as much as I, that you were able to receive a preview copy. (Weren't we lucky?!)

Now that I think about it, I agree with you that the ending was a bit rushed. Perhaps we just wanted to continue in the lovely mood.

A big thank you for your generous words; it's wonderful to share books together.

Nan said...

I really want to read this. I think I'd love it.

Thank you for visiting!

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