Summary and book reviews of Maps For Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam

Maps For Lost Lovers

by Nadeem Aslam

Maps For Lost Lovers
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 400 pages

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Book Summary

Beautifully written, emotionally and sensually arresting—"a Persian love poem for the twenty-first century" —this deeply felt and moving novel explores the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, nationality, religion, and the most personal crises of faith.

Jugnu and his lover, Chanda, have disappeared.

Though unmarried, they had been living together, embracing the contemporary mores of the English town where they lived but disgracing themselves in the eyes of their close-knit Pakistani community. Rumors about their disappearance abound, but five months go by before anything certain is known. Finally, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for the murder of their sister and Jugnu.

Shock and disbelief spread through the community, and for Jugnu’s brother, Shamas, and his wife, Kaukab, it is a moment that marks the beginning of the unraveling of all that is sacred to them. As the novel unfolds over the next twelve months, we watch Kaukab struggle to maintain her Islamic piety as the effects of the double murder prove increasingly corrosive to the life of her family.

Upon its publication last year in England, Alan Hollinghurst praised Maps for Lost Lovers as "haunting, vivid, and tender," and Colm Tóibín hailed it as "a superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn." Beautifully written, emotionally and sensually arresting—"a Persian love poem for the twenty-first century" (Books Quarterly)—this deeply felt and moving novel explores the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, nationality, religion, and the most personal crises of faith. Maps for Lost Lovers introduces American readers to a magnificent voice in fiction.

The Night of the Great Peacock Moths

Shamas stands in the open door and watches the earth, the magnet that it is, pulling snowflakes out of the sky towards itself. With their deliberate, almost-impaired pace, they fall like feathers sinking in water. The snowstorm has rinsed the air of the incense that drifts into the houses from the nearby lake with the xylophone jetty, but it is there even when absent, drawing attention to its own disappearance.

This is the first snow of the season and the neighbourhood's children will be on the slopes all day today, burning candles to heat the runners of toboggans to make them slip with increased fluency, daring each other to lick the frozen spikes of the railings around the church and those around the mosque, smuggling cheese-graters out of the kitchens to refine the symmetry of the snowmen they will build, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
ABOUT THIS GUIDE

“Aslam’s . . . prose is stylistically dazzling, full of poetic, richly descriptive and tender passages. . . . His characters’ inner lives are explored in-depth, flaws and all. . . . A novel as affecting as it is provocative.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enliven your group’s discussion of Maps for Lost Lovers, the spellbinding and often heart-wrenching new novel by the Pakistani-English writer Nadeem Aslam. At once a story of romantic longing and sexual repression; a portrait of a community of Asian immigrants surreally isolated in rural England; and a shocking yet ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although there are times when, to my prosaic Western ears, the imagery does seem to be a bit much, I find it difficult to glibly criticize the book for this alone, especially when I take into account the apparent time and effort that went into writing it (see sidebar). This is not something that would normally color my opinion, but in this case it's enough for me to ask myself, every time I feel that he's laying things on a bit thick, whether the metaphor is there gratuitously to puff out a paragraph or whether, perhaps, he had a specific reason for choosing it! As always, you can judge for yourself by reading a substantial excerpt at BookBrowse.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (426 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this poignant, lushly written novel, Aslam (Season of the Rainbirds) explores the interwoven lives of Pakistani immigrants in an English town they have rechristened Dasht-e-Tanhaii, "the Wilderness of Solitude" or "the Desert of Loneliness."

Kirkus Reviews

The great and genuine strength here is the fairness with which Aslam presents all viewpoints....But Aslam overstates and sentimentalizes Shamas'sselfless saintly decency, and drowns the story in a gratuitously exotic and sensuous hothouse atmosphere evoked by ludicrously strained imagery....Often exquisite; too often, too much of a good thing.

The Independent

Maps for Lost Lovers is a work of great courage both technically and spiritually . . . Stylistically the novel is equally daring . . . A filigree of quests for loves that never were, of passions cut short and of romances that are about to be. I was heartbroken when the dense, dark tapestry was finished.

The Guardian

In this book, filled with stories of cruelty, injustice, bigotry and ignorance, love never steps out of the picture-it gleams at the edges of even the deepest wounds....a remarkable achievment.

The Economist

Maps for Lost Lovers is a novel of extraordinary quality. Islamists would be foolish to try and make political mischief out of it, while western readers would be foolish to ignore such a carefully crafted work.

Books Quarterly

This is a Persian love poem for the 21st century, and Aslam is an author to watch.

The Irish Times

Aslam's prose soars, dazzling images abound . . . Through the opulence of his writing and the darkness of his message Aslam quite brilliantly and shockingly seduces his reader . . . Beautiful and only too real, this story born of romance and pain matches its artistry with courage. It is an important novel and also a very fine one.

Author Blurb David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten
It depicts an extraordinary panorama of life within a Muslim community . . . Thoughtful, revealing, lushly written and painful, this timely book deserves the widest audience.

Reader Reviews

Maryam Ahmed

Maps of lost lovers
Aslam expressed the complexities of religion, and culture in a very fascinating manner. How our customs contaminate our perspectives and judgment and make us so malicious. Chanda's brothers killed Jugnu and Chanda because they were living in a ...   Read More

Payal Parmar

Map for lost lovers....
“Shamas stands in the open door and watches the earth, the magnet that it is, pulling snowflakes out of the sky towards itself.” This is how the beautiful story of Shamas, Jugnnu, Chanda, Kaukab and few other people unfolds in the book, “Maps for ...   Read More

swanlust

Maps for a lost generation
Reading this book for me was like eating a bowl of 'gulaab jaamans'* after a two day fast; sinfully pleasurable, drowning in sheera, oozing forth warmth and sticky sweetness, intensely gratifying in its every mouthful; but at the same time exhausting...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Honor Killings: Map For Lost Lovers explores many issues within the Muslim community, including the central theme of honor killings. According to Amnesty International, an average of 2 women are killed each day in Pakistan for 'betraying the honor of the family' (the reasons for this loss of honor could range from infidelity, including being the victim of rape, through to simply being a bad cook). Last year, President Pervez Musharraf signed a bill making honor killings an explicit criminal act punishable by death. Prior to this it was possible to be acquitted in most cases under a "grave and sudden provocation" clause.

In 2002 UNICEF estimated that 5,000 women were being killed in India alone each year because their dowries ...

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