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In the Eye of the Sun


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On Cairo (Jul-2011) I Think of You (Feb-2007) The Map of Love (Jan-2007) Mezzaterra (Nov-2004) The Map of Love (Mar-2000) The Map of Love (May-1999) In the eye of the sun (May-1999) Sandpiper (Mar-1997) Aisha (Feb-1996) Sandpiper (Feb-1996)


This densely detailed, richly textured novel impeccably recreates the milieus of Cairo, London and English university life as it recounts the maturing of Asya, a beautiful Egyptian who, by her own admission, ``feels more comfortable with art than with life.'' Soueif, a Londoner making her American debut, tells Asya's story cinematically, beginning in 1979 and going back to 1967, with chapters formally divided into scenes and a plethora of flashbacks, flash-forwards and different perspectives. During the course of those years, Asya, daughter of an intellectual Cairo family, falls in love with and marries Saif, a highly successful computer expert who indulges her with considerable luxuries. But the marriage is plagued by sexual problems; going to England to pursue a doctorate, Asya eventually takes up with Gerald, a pseudo-sensitive boor studying marketing. Finally, her marriage over, she returns to a very different and less hospitable Cairo than the one in which she grew up to begin a teaching career about which she is, at best, ambivalent. The author invests scenes of childhood with the burnished glow of fond memory; these are among the most poignant passages here. Her impressive and only slightly overlong novel, with its acutely observed vision of male-female relations as a series of complex power struggles, suggests the emergence of a major new talent. (June)

The war-torn Middle East is a dramatic backdrop for Asya's coming of age. A beautiful Egyptian of wealth and privilege, she is untouched by the wars and turmoil around her and instead focuses on her future husband, Saif, and on her single-minded pursuit of a Ph.D. But Saif's computer business keeps him isolated in the Syrian desert, and Asya's Ph.D. grant lands her in a grim English university where chilly weather and chillier people prevail. Frustrated in marriage and career, she casts about, surviving a disastrous affair and eventually growing into ``complete possession of herself.'' Soueif's novel is an impressive next step forward in time from Naguib Mahfouz's ``Cairo Trilogy'' (e.g., Palace of Desire , LJ 1/91). Its structure, characters, and unique blend of clashing cultures and politics make it an important addition to any collection.-- Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.

"Something of a landmark...a bold and important work. [This] is the first novel I know of that successfully renders an Arab, Egyptian Muslim reality in English. A tour de force."--Leila Ahmed, Washington Post Book World "Raw, accurate, searing....Soueif [is] one ofthe most extraordinary chroniclers of sexual politics now writing."--Edward Said, The Times Literary Supplement

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