A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

It is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie at the ancient Silk Route city of Kashgar to help establish a Christian mission. Lizzie is in thrall to their forceful and unyielding leader Millicent, but Eva's motivations for leaving her bourgeois life back at home are less clear-cut. As they attempt to navigate their new home and are met with resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her book, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar...
In present-day London another story is beginning. Frieda, a young woman adrift in her own life, opens her front door one night to find a man sleeping on the landing. In the morning he is gone, leaving on the wall an exquisite drawing of a long-tailed bird and a line of Arabic script. Tayeb, who has fled to England from Yemen, has arrived on Frieda's doorstep just as she learns that she is the next-of-kin to a dead woman she has never heard of: a woman whose abandoned flat contains many surprises - among them an ill-tempered owl. The two wanderers begin an unlikely friendship as their worlds collide, and they embark on a journey that is as great, and as unexpected, as Eva's.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar was never really what I expected it to be. It took over half the book for me to be drawn in and still then I didn’t downright love it – but I was at least curious as to what would happen next.

The story takes place in two separate timelines with respectively Evangeline English in 1923 and Frieda Blakeman as well as Tayeb Yafai in the present. Both are good stories with good fleshed out characters (though it took far longer for me to like Eva than it took to feel for Frieda and Tayeb). Obviously with such a book the two timelines are indeed somehow connected, but you aren’t told how till very late in the book (and you can’t guess and know for certain) – for me until it was revealed I was annoyed with the book, finding the stories fragmented and wishing I could just be one timelines entire story at a time. Once it had been revealed though I could better accept the shifts and enjoy how it now fit together.

All in all it turned out to be a good read with a pleasant closure. I would have liked it to be more engaging from the get-go, but at least it picked up the slack later on.

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar
read in Danish:  En cyklende dame i Kashgar
ISBN13: 9788792910622
346 pages / published in 2012
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2013

This book was given to me for free to review by saxo.com/dk


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