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A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Suzanne Joinson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)

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Book Description

It is 1923. Evangeline (Eva) English and her sister Lizzie are missionaries heading for the ancient city of Kashgar on the Silk Road. Though Lizzie is on fire with her religious calling, Eva's motives are not quite as noble, but with her green bicycle and a commission from a publisher to write A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, she is ready for adventure.

In present day London, a young woman, Frieda, returns from a long trip abroad to find a man sleeping outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and pillow and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and an exquisite drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some delicate Arabic writing, and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar explores the fault lines that appear when traditions from different parts of an increasingly globalized world crash into each other. Beautifully written and peopled by a cast of unforgettable characters, the novel interweaves the stories of Frieda and Eva, gradually revealing the links between them, and the ways in which they each challenge and negotiate the restrictions of their societies as they make their hard-won way towards home.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A sprightly, engaging and lovingly written book Guardian An enthralling tale, packed with vivid impressions and full of surprises Metro Bold and elegant ... An ambitious, accomplished debut Daily Mail Thrilling and densely plotted ... an impressive debut, its prose as lucid and deep as a mountain lake New York Times A haunting, original and beautifully written tale that conveys a sense of profound alienation, and of other realities Paul Torday, bestselling author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen An astonishing epic - colonial-era travel combined with a modern meditation on where we belong and how we connect in the world - I could not put it down Helen Simonson Joinson possesses a touching, joyful quality that somehow suits the fragile, elusive nature of her characters Independent on Sunday An impressive debut exploring themes of freedom in present-day London and 1920s China. From the far reaches of the colonial Silk Route to the streets of modern London, there's a brilliant sense of place in this original debut Marie Claire I was blown away by this debut. It's amazing. Clever, exotic, compulsive, intensely moving -- Sue Leonard Irish Examiner The title of Suzanne Joinson's first novel promises much and delivers ... Joinson's characterisation is finely drawn and brings Kashgar vividly to life - it's a debut novel of note -- Sarah Crowden The Lady Brilliantly descriptive, this is a book to delight in and savour Choice An ambitious debut ... With intriguing characters and exotic locations, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar is a compelling and likeable tale ... not only a smartly paced adventure story but also a careful meditation on the myriad ways in which loving, and failing, our children are often tragically and inextricably linked -- Beth Jones Sunday Telegraph Joinson balances these parallel stories with impressive skill. In an alternating-chapter narrative, there's always a temptation to skip through one story in favour of the other. Here, both are equally absorbing ... a strikingly original first novel, and a total page-turner. In fact, it has the look of a slow-burn, word-of-mouth favourite -- Arminta Wallace Irish Times A delicate yet gutsy spirit of adventure pervades the pages of A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar. Suzanne Joinson writes of faraway places, across the globe and within ourselves, with a control and vivacity that fires our own dreams of flight Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers

Review

A haunting, original and beautifully written tale that conveys a sense of profound alienation, and of other realities Paul Torday, bestselling author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen A heartfelt story about adventurous women and a fascinating history of life in a remote corner of the Silk Road in the early twentieth century; utterly beguiling Rebecca Stott, author of The Coral Thief Beautifully written in language too taut, piercing, and smartly observed to be called lyrical, this atmospheric first novel immediately engages, nicely reminding us that odd twists of fate sometimes aren't that odd. Highly recommended Library Journal An astonishing epic - colonial-era travel combined with a modern meditation on where we belong and how we connect in the world - I could not put it down Helen Simonson Eccentric and full of twists and surprises and in the end very touching. Above all bold and different and extremely readable Katharine McMahon, author of The Rose of Sebastopol Richly imaginative and daring in the way it weaves together time-scapes and landscapes Gillian Beer A wonderfully evocative, fresh and impressive debut. I admired its scope and its unexpectedness Jill Dawson Suzanne Joinson's first novel is a finely-worked and captivating read. She combines her own wealth of travel experiences with vivid characters from past and present, resulting in a delicate yet richly-layered story. Delicious Stella Duffy Thrilling and densely plotted ... An impressive debut, its prose as lucid and deep as a mountain lake. Joinson also has a gift for evoking finely calibrated shifts of feeling... Joinson explores notions of freedom, rootlessness, dislocation - any writer's reliable arsenal. But she makes these themes her own -- Sara Wheeler New York Times Book Review

Product Details

  • File Size: 669 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (May 22, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007N6JCVW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,486 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bygone and Contemporary Woven into One March 30, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I tend to dismiss most of the so-called "Lady Books" out of hand anticipating the Chick-lit brand of formulaic story style. I am so glad that I made an exception for A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar. This is a well written novel; actually at times a little overwritten, but it's Suzanne Joinson's first novel so we'll overlook that.

The story comes together in two strands, like the double helix, joining at the end and coalescing to present a fully formed chronicle of two tales set a century apart.

The narrator in 1923 is Eva, with the fiery red hair but plain of face. She was once told by a gentleman that "You have the hair of a Burne-Jones beauty, but sadly not the face". Her sister Liz, a photographer, has a Calling and joins missionary Millicent to bring The Word to the people along the old Silk Road. Eva, with her big green bicycle in tow, goes along under false pretenses but is actually scheming to write a travel book in this foreign and exotic land. She laments "I have convinced Millicent of my missionary calling. I have convinced a publisher of the worth of my proposed book. I have even tricked my dear sister who believes that I am here in His name: to do His Good Works. I should be feeling cleaver......To my surprise....I realize that I am quite terrified of the desert; of its insects that grow louder with the dusk; of its relentlessness, of becoming simply bones, left in a desert to petrify".

The trio is almost immediately put under house arrest in Kashgar by Mohammed, a Muslim, who accommodates them in his home with his wives and children. The clash of culture and religion sets an interesting plot point for the author to entertain us.

The second strand of the story is set in London in the present day.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The weight of the past March 17, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The blurb describes "A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar" as wondrous. However, after I finished the book, I felt rather a little bit depressed at this inter-generational story of women struggling to make peace with their pasts.

Author Suzanne Joinson intertwines the stories of two women. One is about Evangeline (Eva) English who in 1923 is detained along with her sister, Lizzie, in the city of Kashgar, East Turkestan as their fellow missionary and mentor, Millicent Frost, is accused of a murder. The other story is that of Frieda Blaekman, the present-day Londoner who suddenly becomes responsible for the contents of an apartment of a deceased woman whose name she has never heard of before. Joinson uses the journal form to bring Evangeline closer in time to the readers while Frieda's story is narrated in third person so that we can fit together the pieces of her life and that of Tayeb, the illegal immigrant she befriended when she found him spending the night outside her apartment door.

On the surface, one may read Joinson's book as a historical adventure. Kashgar in the 1920s is an exotic but dangerous place. At another level, it could be a criticism toward religious control and power. However, Ms. Joinson paints equally unflattering portraits of both missionaries and gurus so that neither Western nor Eastern traditions win the day. At a deeper level, and this is one of the few things I liked about "A Lady Cyclist's Guide", was that the author touches on how we seem to be destined to repeat our parents' mistakes. Both Frieda and Eva struggle to make sense of their parents' views of love and their relationship choices as they affect their own.

I found Eva's story to be the most engaging of the two.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exotic adventures past and present March 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Two stories from two centuries intertwine in this exotic tale of distant travel, danger, betrayal, culture clashes, and loves lost and found. The narration alternates between present day London and 1923 Kashgar in a complex time shift with time moving ever faster. Or perhaps I just read faster as I became more and more involved in the story.

Knowing the ways of storytellers, I quickly surmised that the two disparate stories would eventually come together. Anticipation was pleasantly suspenseful, fueled by mysterious happenings.

The present-day heroine is Frieda Blakeman, a compulsive traveler who's highly paid to research the thinking of the youths of East and West. The early twentieth-century heroine is Evangeline English, who's posing as a missionary so she can write a travel guide to Kashgar. Miss English is traveling with her beautiful, ethereal photographer-sister - and a zealous, domineering older woman who leads their expedition.

Thrilling and frightening adventures await the reader in Kashgar. Equally colorful adventures unfold in London.

I found the structure of the novel clever and the story engaging. The portrait of fanatical religious attitudes (Eastern and Western) was thought provoking. Sometimes the writing is too self-consciously literary for my taste. But readers more poetic than me will probably love it.

If you think you'd enjoy an exotic adventure across time and space, and a fanciful prose style, then I'd recommend A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book Very interesting in how it is written The ...
An excellent book
Very interesting in how it is written
The style of a diary and present life
Published 6 days ago by M robin Potthoff
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Disappointing. Expected more historical cultural descriptions. Didn't really put me there, especially the London scenes.
Published 21 days ago by Dale Greene
2.0 out of 5 stars The author is not a good writer in spite of a few decent sentences...
Still trying to struggle my way through this book. The contemporary story might turn out to be OK, but the one set in the 20's is simply wearisome. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Fray Dna
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
have not read it as yet
Published 1 month ago by sandra webb
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful way of telling how two stories can intertwine.
I really enjoyed the way the two stories were intertwined. I thought at the beginning that we would see what brought the two stories together. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marlou
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying and predictable
At the beginning I was really excited about the book, it seemed like it was going to be quite good, however that only lasted for a few chapters. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Erin
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I traveled with her.
Published 2 months ago by Gwen Gilbert
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting plot line and perspective switches.
Published 2 months ago by Rebecca Lindsey
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, balanced debut by a terrific writer
Like a wily veteran writer, first-time author Suzanne Joinson weaves two equally compelling narratives, separated by 90 years, and by subtle stages reveals to us the relation... Read more
Published 3 months ago by BassoProfundo
4.0 out of 5 stars An Adventure through Interwoven Plots
The novel is constructed with two story lines; a little mystery that draws the two adventures together and all makes sense at the end. I realized the stories belong to each other. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michelle Gendel
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