In these selected stories from her collections “Aisha” and “Sandpiper”, Ahdaf Soueif writes about love and displacement in prose that is delicately nuanced and acutely observed. These are achingly lyrical stories, resonant and richly woven. But they always retain an edginess as they explore areas of tension – where women and men are ensnared by cultural and social mores and prescribed notions of ‘love’, where the place you are is not the place you want to be. She delivers her characters with infinite tenderness and compassion as they inhabit a world of lost opportunities, unfulfilled love and remembrance of times past.
I think of You is a collection of 8 short stories. They should be unrelated stories but there seems to be a continuation from “Knowing” which narrates a little girl’s childhood in Egypt surrounded by relatives and family members who loves her, to “1964” where suddenly the girl is transported to a place of cold, dark, wet and windy with lots of people and trains, and to Aisha who grew up to become a teacher and “Returning” to Egypt to visit her family and the other stories seems to take readers through the major events of a woman’s life as they became a wife, a mother and an old companion. The stories seems to be autobiographical of Soueif’s life to me.
It’s hard to be objective when you are reading a book. Many factors actually influence how you feel about the book. This book is influenced by the many great full length novels that I read before this and I am not great in short stories. I really like the first few stories a lot. The bullying between the girls in school to Aisha was hurtful when she was probed from which class of society she belongs to, about her awkwardness in PE lessons and the worse feeling of not belonging in school. From there on however, the rest of the book fell short of brilliance.
Still Ahdaf Soueif writes beautifully. I didn’t like The Map of Love all that much and I think her short stories in this case are better.
To everything there is an order and a pattern. And the pattern and the order are good. Time, from one birthday to the next, runs gently by, overflowing with an abundance of pleasures. If there are fears and griefs, they are minor and I am always able to be comforted by the grown-ups.
Another read for Middle Eastern Challenge.
Paperback. Publisher: Bloomsbury 2007; Length: 180 pages ; Setting: London and Cairo / Alexandria, Egypt. Source: Westminster London Library. Finished reading on: 28th June 2011.