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Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam
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Maps for Lost Lovers (2004)

by Nadeem Aslam

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6242123,469 (3.84)49

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» See also 49 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Shamas and Jugnu are the unconventional sons of an accidental Muslim, a Hindu boy rendered amnesiac by a bomb blast in the wake of the Amritsar riots and subsequently adopted by Muslims. His younger sons (now adults) live with the slight tarnish to their name his legacy brings; the hothouse gossip-beds of their immigrant community in Britain thrives on such morsels.

When Jugnu falls in love with Chanda, twice-divorced daughter of a local shopkeeper, they outrage the faithful - including Kaukab, his sister-in-law - by moving in together. Months later, they go on a trip home to Pakistan and are never seen again. When Kaukab asks some boys to peer in their window, it becomes evident that they came home, and a police investigation begins.

Picking up some months later, Maps for Lost Lovers explores the fractures and griefs within a community that holds itself wilfully separate from its host nation, fearful of ridicule, racism, and ritual pollution. Slowly unfolding stories that wind about the core tragedy, it is a little like a toccata and fugue, revisiting the same themes through varying iterations to underscore - or perhaps explain - the culturally acceptable murder that is an honour killing in Pakistan.

This is beautifully written stuff, shamelessly slow and given to evoking floral and butterfly imagery (Jugnu is a lepidopterist) in such detail that the colours and scents leap off the page, as do the sharp smells and rich flavours of Kaukab's glorious cooking. It contrasts harshly with the often-unthinkable beliefs that the novel confronts you with, and the human frailties that are exposed by them.

It lost me a little in the penultimate act, where it ultimately felt like polemic (in part because there is no illustration of a moderate or integrated Islam anywhere within the tale). Kaukab's confrontation with her beloved son Ujala is the only time we hear from him directly, and his assault on her faith feels like the voice of the author in part because Ujala has been given no voice of his own. I think I would have been happier too without the final act, where the truths of Jugnu's and Chanda's disappearance are spelled out; this wasn't a story that left me craving certainty.

It's a fairly minor gripe. This is a powerful novel, if difficult reading, and I highly recommend it. ( )
  imyril | Oct 18, 2015 |
One of my favourite books - a dark story of honour killing told in beautifully poetic language. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 11, 2014 |
The prose is rich but too many similes make it difficult to get to the point. Story itself is gripping. Though perhaps the Muslim orthodoxy part is overdone as it is everywhere you look in the book. ( )
1 vote rohit.khetan | Jun 5, 2013 |
Deeply sad saga of how people can use a religion to slice hearts again and again. ( )
  poonamsharma | Apr 6, 2013 |
I feel guilty for marking this book so low, so I do so with a disclaimer: I acknowledge that this is a wonderful book, but there were some things which hit my buttons and made me dislike it. I found every single character's deep level of self-pity irksome. This was something which only occurred to me towards the end, but there was something else which really did annoy me. The imagery was just ridiculous sometimes..I know what in writings by those from India, Pakistan, the sub-continent in general, there is rich imagery to be found and this is something which can show cultural ties at their best. However when describing something as looking like the freckles on a doll's fingers...I start to wonder exactly what the reasoning is for simply seeming to choose the most obscure similie possible in any particular situation. This is not to say that some metaphors were not masterful, carrying meaning linked through the book for example, but some were just ludicrous, over-the-top and tiresome.

Really, it is a great book, I'm sure you'll find high praise in many other reviews which I would not disagree with, but personally I found it hard to see through a veil of irritation. ( )
1 vote BeeQuiet | Jun 2, 2010 |
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"A human being is never what he is but the self he seeks." Octavia Paz
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Shamas stands in the open door and watches the earth, the magnet that it is, pulling the snowflakes out of the sky towards itself.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Novel, about the lives and loves of members of a Pakistani community in modern-day UK.
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The disappearance of Jugnu and Chanda turns tragic when Chanda's brothers are arrested for their murders and the families struggle to reconcile their Islamic faith and the crime's impact on their families.

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