Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is the 1920s and Evangeline English, her sister Lizzie, and their missionary leader, Millicent, have travelled to Turkestan with plans of converting the local Muslim population to Christianity. However, Evangeline has no real interest or intention in establishing a mission or in converting "the heathens". Rather, Evangeline has secret plans to write a travel guide based on what she sees and experiences in Kashgar.

It is also present day London, and Frieda is a modern-world professional stuck in an unproductive relationship with a selfish married man; and Tayeb is an "illegal" from Yemen who finds himself homeless and sleeping in the corridor outside Frieda's apartment. The two form an unlikely friendship and together they go about investigating the origins of a mysterious inheritance, of which Frieda has found herself unwillingly in possession.

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar is split between two periods, 1920s Turkestan and modern London, and is, ultimately, three stories in one: Evangeline, Frieda and Tayeb. Having said that, however, it was Evangeline's story that is the basis for the novel as a whole, and the one that I personally found the most interesting.

The manner in which the novel is written, with each individual component consistently interrupting the others, made it feel disjointed and the characters distant. It is assumed that the three central characters must be connected in some way, but this only starts to become clear after two thirds of the novel has been read. There are also too many random, insignificant ramblings, where the story veers off on tangents, more often than not right in the middle of a really interesting piece. I found this frustrating.

Overall, I found Evangeline's story to be the most interesting of the three; the events surrounding her time in Kashgar are the reason I kept reading until the end, and I would have been perfectly content had this novel been her story alone.

Advanced Review Copy through NetGalley. Many thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for allowing me to read and review this novel prior to official publication.

1 comment:

  1. I have this one to read too. I do like the sound of it.


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