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Lyrics Alley: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Aboulela's third novel, inspired by the life of her uncle, the poet Hassan Awad Aboulela, offers a delightfully quixotic view of northern Sudan in the 1950s on the brink of its independence from Britain and Egypt. Nur is the favored son of the wealthy Abuzeid family, destined to take over the family business, until he is severely injured in an accident. Mahmoud, Nur's father, is both optimist and pragmatist, eager to embrace contemporary mores yet firmly rooted to his homeland. Mahmoud's two wives—Nur's deeply traditional and veiled mother, Waheeba, and Nabilah, a young and homesick Egyptian—have conflicts that swell and erupt in both predictable and surprising ways. The characters are lovingly and precisely rendered, and Aboulela (The Translator) describes the impact of Nur's disability with keen detail and noteworthy empathy. Though the novel offers few glimpses into life outside the Abuzeid's sheltered enclave, paying scant attention to the history and turmoil of an era that left Sudan in a lengthy civil war, Aboulela provides fine insight into the practice of Islam, especially through the children's tutor's thoughts and words, as well as a thoroughly engaging if romanticized exploration of the universal tensions between modernity and tradition, commerce and art, faith and doubt. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Aboulela is a prizewinning novelist who was born in Khartoum, Sudan, and currently lives in Qatar. This novel traces the trials and tribulations of a wealthy, semi-Westernized Sudanese clan�the Abuzeids�as they strive to cope with domestic turmoil as well as the transition to political independence from Great Britain in the 1950s. The family�s wealth, remarkably, has been accumulated largely via domestic commerce independent of British control, so postindependence prosperity seems likely. Then a crippling accident to the young heir apparent to the family business begins a series of setbacks; the efforts of individual characters to cope with these disasters form the core of the narrative. Aboulela writes well in English, sometimes too well, as her flowery prose is sometimes excessive. Still, she creates interesting characters, knows how to manage dramatic tension, and effectively conveys a sense of a once-comfortable, insular existence slowly crumbling under the strain of events that seem beyond control. This is a well-done family saga that should appeal to general readers and those familiar with the places and period that mold the setting of the story. --Jay Freeman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition (1 in number line) edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119513
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,698,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leila Aboulela won the first Caine Prize for African Writing. Her new novel Lyrics Alley is set in 1950s Sudan and is inspired by the life of her uncle, the poet Hassan Awad Aboulela, who wrote the lyrics for many popular Sudanese songs. Leila is the author of two other novels: The Translator, one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year, and Minaret- both long-listed for the Orange Prize and IMPAC Dublin Award. Leila's work has been translated into twelve languages and included in publications such as Granta, The Washington Post and the Virginia Quarterly Review. She grew up in Khartoum and now lives in Doha.
For more info visit www.leila-aboulela.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Beth Cummings VINE VOICE on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed Leila Aboulela's novel, "Lyrics Aley." It is the story of a Sudanese merchant's family during the early 1050s as Sudan was preparing to become a nation on its own after being connceted to Egypt and being a British colony. The family patriarch, Mahmous Abuzeid, is a successful businessman who has followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather making a living buying and selling. His grandfather had a stall in a the bazaar, but now the business has warehouses and shipping in both Sudan and Egypt. Mahmoud Abuzeid also has a wife from both Sudan and Egypt. His Sudanese wife is an older village woman and the mother of his two oldest sons, Nassir and Nur. His Egyptian wife is young, sophisticated and the mother of a young son and daughter. The disparities between these two women and their expectations form a partial basis for the plot. Another large part comes from a tragic accident that befalls the second son, Nur.

The world around the Abuzeid family is rapidly changing and each part of the family needs to learn to cope with these changes. The book gives interesting insight into Sudanese life and the social and political differences between Sudan and Egypt. It makes the current split within Sudan a more understandable situation.

I found the book to be fascinating. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy books about different cultures, history told as story and family drama as a way to learn about the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ethel Gullette on September 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful and evocative novel, set in a most interesting time and place. The characters are extremely well-drawn, and the mix of personal story with cultural and historical context is great.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was everything I thought it would be a a great read. An unpredictable ending, great imagery, interesting plot and to top it off it was an old library book!!! An English major's dream! It still had the book check out card in the back and the pages were yellowing. It was prefect. Great add on to my collection.

I don't think that's how they all come if you're not into the vintage used look.
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The story is weak and poorly developed. The evolution of the characters is unconvincing and poorly developed. It could have been a good book with more insight into the characters.
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By Judy Moore on May 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a surprisingly wonderful novel with well developed characters, an intriguing analysis of cultural and class differences and a carefully developed plot that actually resolves in a believable fashion. So many current novels wind up with either an abrupt end or an unbelievable, albeit 'happy' ending that this one actually works!
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