Title: A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar (Goodreads)
Author: Suzanne Joinson
Published: Bloomsbury, 2012
Genre: General Fiction
My Copy: Review Copy
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository, Kindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
Last month, I was walking past our local indie bookshop, and outside they had a blackboard that listed some of the new releases they had in stock. A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar was one of those, and the title drew me in. I had no idea what it was about and had heard nothing about it leading up to the release, but perhaps it was the mention of some foreign city that I’ll never likely experience myself. I went in to try and find a copy to learn more about it, but I couldn’t find it, and then got distracted looking at other things. Then it showed up at our house in one of those parcels of books my husband regularly receives, so I knew I had to read it.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar tells the story of a couple of people. In 1923, it tells the story of Evangeline English who arrives in Kashgar in disguise as a Christian missionary, as a way to protect her sister who had decided to become an evangelist. Inspired by the travels of Richard Burton, she decides to write a similar book, of which the title of this book comes from. With her bicycle as her own real sense of freedom, the reality of living in Kashgar never seems to meet the romanticised adventure in her mind. Her relationship with her sister changes, as Evangline tries to guard her from things that Lizzie doesn’t want to avoid.
In the present day, we have Frieda, who is at her crossroads in her life. Her job working with Islamic youth in various Middle Eastern countries causes her to be out of town a lot so her friendships have withered. She’s in a dead end relationship with a married man. She then gets a letter saying an old woman has died and she’s the next of kin and she should come clear the house. Tayab is a refugee from Yemen, living in England with an expired visa and is on the run. Their encounter of each other lead their lives on a new course, both having to confront some major issues in their lives.
Suzanne Joinson’s debut novel alternates between 1923 and the present day. Each time, I felt like I was longing to find out what was happening in the other story. As the story comes together, you realise that both the stories are connected and it left me thinking about how the actions of people in generations before mine have affected the choices I may make now without me even knowing. There is no real way to know how the lives of people we’ve never met unconsciously affect our decision making today.
As a Christian, I found the missionary aspect interesting. Full of people filled with faults, which I suppose is an accurate reflection of any church. Some trying to do the right thing, some trying to make amends for their own wrongs, and some on power trips trying to control others, whatever the risk. It seemed to be written very matter-of-factly and I don’t think it was in a pro- or anti-Christian way. I appreciated that.
I enjoyed this book; the story was beautifully written and can take you to a time and place not normally experienced by us.
This is a guest post by Mary; not only is she my wonderful wife, she is also my editor and helps moderate the Literary Exploration group on Goodreads. Big thanks to her for this post and everything she does to help me with this blog.