Source- Review copy
Publication date- August 2012
Synopsis- It is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie at the ancient Silk Route city of Kashgar to help establish a Christian mission. Lizzie is in thrall to their forceful and unyielding leader Millicent, but Eva’s motivations for leaving her bourgeois life back at home are less clear-cut. As they attempt to navigate their new home and are met with resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her book, A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar…
In present-day London another story is beginning. Frieda, a young woman adrift in her own life, opens her front door one night to find a man sleeping on the landing. In the morning he is gone, leaving on the wall an exquisite drawing of a long-tailed bird and a line of Arabic script. Tayeb, who has fled to England from Yemen, has arrived on Frieda’s doorstep just as she learns that she is the next-of-kin to a dead woman she has never heard of: a woman whose abandoned flat contains many surprises – among them an ill-tempered owl.
The two wanderers begin an unlikely friendship as their worlds collide, and they embark on a journey that is as great, and as unexpected, as Eva’s.
A stunning debut peopled by unforgettable characters, A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar is an extraordinary story of inheritance and the search for belonging in a fractured and globalised world.
Review- A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar is a gem of a read! What a surprisingly absorbing story that lured me in from the very first chapter when an eleven year old girl is giving birth on the side of the road on the route to Kashgar in 1923. Lizzie and Eva are sisters, travelling as missionaries with their leader, Millicent. Eva takes the opportunity to cycle as they travel with the hope of writing a guide to cycling in the Middle East, she loves to cycle.
The story also switches to modern day London, Frieda’s life takes a different path when she arrives home from a work trip in the Middle East to find she has inherited the possessions of a woman named Irene Guy. Frieda also befriends an immigrant from Yemen who takes residence on her front doorstep and together they investigate the identity of Irene and how their lives are connected.
Back in 1923; Eva, Lizzie and Millicent are under house arrest in Kashgar due to allegations that they killed the 11 year old girl. The girl died during childbirth following the successful delivery of her baby by Millicent. Eva becomes attached to the baby and becomes her primary carer as the locals are resistant to embracing a baby associated with death. The themes around religion and cultural beliefs were really fascinating and in particular the reception of Christianity into a Muslim community was of interest. Many of the themes and the challenges faced by the characters were thought-provoking and emotionally charging.
It’s difficult to describe what exactly I loved about this book, I do think the author skilfully creates subtleties in characters that foster intrigue and instead of dumping information on the reader there’s space for the reader to make up their own mind about the characters and the issues raised. Highly recommended read!
Purchase book @