- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (May 20, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0747557306
- ISBN-13: 978-0747557302
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,193,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Kartography Paperback – May 20, 2002
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Kartography is Kamila Shamsie's impressive third novel. At its heart is a traditional love story-cum-family saga. Karim and Raheen are anagram-swapping "fated friends." Until the age of 13, when Karim moved to London, they were virtually raised as brother and sister. Their parents had once been engaged to each other. The unravelling of quite why this matrimonial square dance occurred is juxtaposed with Karim and Raheen's own, and decidedly more protracted, romance.
As the title suggests, mapping--geographical, political and emotional--is central to the book. The "comic" spelling is a wry allusion to its setting: the troubled Pakistani city of Karachi, a place that, as Karim observes, worships "at the altar of K." Karim, Raheen and their friends Sonia and Zia all belong to the privileged Karachi elite. Born on the right "side of the Clifton Bridge" they seem immune from Karachi's endemic corruption, violence, and religious and ethnic intolerance but they and their families, like the rest of the city's inhabitants, have all been horrifically scarred by events of the 1971 civil war.
Like Austen, or perhaps more accurately Forster, Shamsie is wonderfully adept at capturing the petty rivalries and social games of Pakistan's highly stratified bourgeoisie society--Zia's house is sagely described as "always full of people worth cultivating, rather than people worth having in your home." There are a few (well-acknowledged) nods to Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and even Homer's Odyssey gets a look in but Shamsie wears her learning lightly. She manages to make Karim and Raheen's journey to toward engagement, both with the realities of Karachi and with each other, into a profound meditation on the nature of love, storytelling and politics. --Travis Elborough, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The trauma of war is typically gauged by loss of lives and property, not broken hearts, but the microcosm is often as powerful an indicator of loss as the macrocosm-or so Shamsie seems to say in her latest novel, a shimmering, quick-witted lament and love story. Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, is a place under constant siege: ethnic, factional, sectarian and simply random acts of violence are the order of the day. This violence-and the lingering legacy of the civil war of 1971-is the backdrop for the story of Raheen and Karim, a girl and boy raised together in the 1970s and '80s, whose lives are shattered when a family secret is revealed. The two friends and their families are members of the city's wealthy elite, personified in its shallowness by family members like Raheen's supercilious Aunt Runty and in guilty social conscience by Karim himself. This is a complex novel, deftly executed and rich in emotional coloratura and wordplay (the title is inspired by Karim's burgeoning obsession with mapmaking, and spelled with a "k" after the city's name). Shamsie pays homage to Calvino with a pastiche of Invisible Cities written by Raheen at her upstate New York college. But Shamsie's novel deals more with ghosts than cities: ghosts of relationships, ghosts of childhood, ghosts of love. A ghost is said to haunt a tree where Raheen's father-once engaged to Karim's mother-carved their initials long ago. Two ghosts representing Karim and Raheen walk an invisible city in Raheen's Calvino tribute. As someone said to Raheen: "There's a ghost of a dream you don't even try to shake free of because you're too in love with the way she haunts you." In similar fashion, Raheen remains in love with Karachi, family and friends, even as one by one their facades crumble.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The author can obviously write, but in this case she did not succeed in telling a story.
Later, when Karim returns to Karachi, the two meet again, but their once easy relationship has become complicated by distance and family secrets. Neither can unravel the emotional knots created during the years they were separated. Raheen's nature is to cling desperately to her childhood memories, savoring the closeness she enjoyed with her best friend, although she is definitely in love with him. Karim has evolved into a principled man, a cartographer, whose world is defined in black and white, in absolutes.
Karim has long known the family secret; because of this, he judges Raheen for her complicity, although she has no knowledge of the event that occurred before they were born. In the bright idealism of youth, Karim's judgment comes easily, albeit flawed by his ignorance. Karim and Raheen have difficulty managing the complications of love, friendship and polarizing politics, their emotions as entangled as the love of their parents; only when they embrace the decisions faced by their parents can the young couple overcome their lack of communication.
This upper class Pakistani slice-of-life is set against a background of recurring civil war, beautifully illustrating the unbreakable bonds of love and friendship, made more durable by friendship. Shamsie's engaging prose evokes the warmth and acceptance of family, as the author connects politics with the everyday lives of the citizens of Karachi. Eventually, affluence is insufficient protection from the random violence of war and personal possessions cannot isolate these families from tragedy.
This is indeed a love story between a boy and a girl, but also an inter-generational one, where compassion defines the quality of family relationships. The extraordinary friendship of the parents, even with its inherent problems, teaches their children about the fragility of the human heart and the catharsis of forgiveness. Luan Gaines/2004.
Raheen's and Karim's parents were once engaged to each other: her father to his mother, his father to her mother. There is a long buried secret, a family mystery, behind the fiancee swap - one that threatens to sever the magical bond that unites these young people as they become adults.
Filled with wry humor and wit, this is a novel about a friendship predestined to turn into love. The metaphor of maps and identity is embodied by the character of Karim, who wants to be a mapmaker, obsessed with finding the roots and meaning of geographical belonging. However, the author Kamila Shamsie also writes about Pakistan, political violence, and growing up rich and comfortable in a land that is always on the edge of riot and despair.
Ms. Shamsie writes a lyrical, impassioned narrative, lush with detail. Her novel is a love song, of sorts, to Karachi. Set against the backdrop of Pakistan's bloody civil war, it is a story of a country at war and of hearts at war, where the intricacies of love and intimacy are deftly explored. A superb novel!