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Lyrics Alley: Book review

Lyric's Alley book review

Reviewed by's Steph Zajkowski

1950s Sudan. British rule is coming to an end.

The country is torn between modernising influences and the lure of the West and the call of traditions past.

Against this backdrop, we are immersed into the lives of the powerful Abuzeid family.

With Mahmoud Bey at its helm, the family can do no wrong.

A savvy business man, Abuzeid Snr has forged his sprawling business empire with one foot rooted firmly in his country's traditions and the other striding towards new opportunities.  

But when Mahmoud's brilliant son and English-educated heir, Nur, suffers a near-fatal accident, the family's glittering future threatens to derail.

With Nur's hopes of university dashed, the inevitable breakdown of his betrothal to childhood sweetheart Soraya is a tragedy that he is almost unable to bear.

Confined to one room, Nur must find a way to live in the world again and Mahmoud must rethink his life's strategy.

Mahmoud's second wife, Nabilah, longs to return to cosmopolitan Egypt and leave behind her the dust of 'backward-looking' Sudan.

But his first wife, Waheeba, lives traditionally behind veils and closed doors and resents Nabilah's influence on Mahmood.

With everything Mahmoud holds dear shaken to its core, Lyrics Alley is an exploration of tradition and modernity - of casting out the old and embracing the new, or clinging onto the familiar props of the past.

Despite this being the story of a father and a son - there are enough other 'core' characters to confuse - at first.

But once I had sorted out everyone's place in the novel, I enjoyed the poetry, the imagery and the lyrical prose of Aboulela's novel.

The Sudanese/Egyptian settings are written so beautifully and magically, it often feels like you are there.

This novel is 'something different', about a fascinating time and place many of us would not be familiar with.


Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela

RRP: $39.99
Available: now