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Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela
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Lyrics Alley (edition 2010)

by Leila Aboulela

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1038117,210 (3.6)96
Member:franoscar
Title:Lyrics Alley
Authors:Leila Aboulela
Info:George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (2010), Paperback, 310 pages
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Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela

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It took me a little while to get into this, but once in I was hooked. There's a lot packed into this not-particularly-lengthy (just over 300 pages) novel, and I like the way Aboulela brings it all together. In a nutshell, it's the story of one family living just outside Khartoum, over a couple of years in the early 1950s, with the tumultuous political events of that period (the fall of the British Empire, the struggle for self-determination, Sudan's relationship with Egypt) as a backdrop (my interest was piqued enough to have me go off and do some googling). Add to that a polygamous marriage, female circumcision, one female character's battle to be allowed to wear reading glasses (why would a woman need to read?) and other considerations linked to the role of women in this society...but all skillfully handled in a gentle way which made me think about the issues at stake, question them. ( )
  rachbxl | Feb 10, 2014 |
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 & 1952) if this disjointed feeling was created by the author on purpose?? But I just really can't be sure. ( )
  DawsonOakes | Apr 2, 2013 |
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 the side of chick-lit instead of world-lit. An easy read though.

( )
  BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
Spoilers.

Ouch! Not for the faint of heart.

This is a very readable novel about a very successful businessman in the Sudan in the early 1960s. He has a traditional wife who bore him 2 sons and a modern Egyptian wife who has a younger son & a daughter.

I haven't read how much is factual; the story is based on the author's relative who was a famous poet & I assume was paralyzed like the character in the book that is based on him. (Else why have that plot twist?)

A parallel & slightly intersecting storyline tells of an Egyptian teacher who has been sent ot the Sudan to teach, and is poor, and has many kids and a wife who wants to live in an apartment and to have more than one room.

The characters were frustrating sometimes, and hard to put up with; their qualities were often stated rather than shown. The reader gets a feeling for the times, and it is good at showing the traditional and the modern side by side.
  franoscar | Jan 5, 2013 |
Set in 1950's Sudan and tells the tale of a family accident.
  fay.mcoscar | Nov 8, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
LEILA ABOULELA’S “Lyrics Alley”, which has been shortlisted for the 2011 Orange prize for fiction, is set in Sudan, as it sloughs off British and Egyptian rule and prepares for its new liberty. Mahmoud, the urbane patriarch, straddles two worlds, embodied in his two wives. The first, Waheeba, is Sudanese; her bulk swathed in a traditional tobe, the tribal scars on her face like “cracks on a French loaf”. Spoilt Nabilah, his younger second wife, is an Egyptian glamourpuss, who sulkily divides her time between Egypt and Sudan, infuriated at the “primitiveness” of her new home, sullen at the heat and squalor of her husband’s “untamed land”. Dismissive of Waheeba, she scorns the very idea that this lump of a woman, “obese, menopausal, illiterate”, could be her rival in anything.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Economist (Mar 17, 2011)
 
The novel was inspired by the life of Aboulela’s uncle, a poet, and a deeper question running throughout is: what is the role of artists in our society? Lyrics Alley sensitively charts the growth of a young artist discovering and honing his talent: 'It must be a skill, like fishing, to cast your net into a river of dreams and catch a splendid array of words.’ In an unstable world, Nur finds that 'the poem is his home’.

Vividly evoking the alleyways of Sudan, Egypt and Britain, this novel also movingly and meticulously traces the hidden pathways of the mind and heart with all its anger, shame, hate and love.
added by kidzdoc | editTelegraph, Anita Sethi (Dec 12, 2010)
 
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Alhamdullilah, he was safe and the worst was over.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802119514, Hardcover)

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 brilliant, handsome heir to the business empire, suffers a debilitating accident, the family stands divided in the face of an uncertain future. As British rule nears its end, the country is torn between modernizing influences and the call of traditions past—a conflict reflected in the growing tensions between Mahmoud's two wives: the younger, Nabilah, longs to return to Egypt and escape "backward-looking" Sudan; while Waheeba lives traditionally behind veils and closed doors. It's not until Nur asserts himself outside the cultural limits of his parents that his own spirit and the frayed bonds of his family begin to mend.

Moving from Sudanese alleys to cosmopolitan Cairo and a decimated postcolonial Britain, this sweeping tale of desire, loss, despair, and reconciliation is one of the most accomplished portraits ever written about Sudanese society at the time of independence.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:43 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Their fortune threatened by shifting powers in Sudan and their heir's debilitating accident, a powerful family under the leadership of Mahmoud Bey is torn between the traditional and modern values of Mahmoud's two wives and his son's efforts to break with cultural limits.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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