Forbidden to Grow up

Gabriele Annan

  • The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
    Bloomsbury, 529 pp, £18.99, June 1999, ISBN 0 7475 4367 4

When Tolstoy died in November 1910, one of the principal characters in Ahdaf Soueif’s new novel felt bereaved: ‘I have derived more enjoyment from Anna Karenina and War and Peace,’ Lady Anna Winterbourne notes in her diary, ‘than from any other novels that I have read.’ The Map of Love suggests that Soueif herself may have Tolstoyan aspirations. Aspirations, not pretensions: there is an engaging modesty about her voice. Still, both her earlier novel, In the Eye of the Sun (nearly eight hundred pages), and The Map of Love (more than five hundred) are more than romantic love stories: they are interpretations of Egyptian history, past and present; and prescriptions for improvements that might be made there – just as Tolstoy’s novels were for Russia.

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