Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries, the latest novel from bestselling author Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of familial burdens and cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men.
"On her annual getaway to Paris with her parents, Khayyam is mulling over uncertainties awaiting her back in Chicago: an ex-boyfriend who's sending mixed signals, and a humiliating rejection letter from her dream college, thanks to an essay about an art-world obscurity that has since been debunked. Luckily, a chance encounter with a descendant of Alexandre Dumas and their mystifying connection to the legacy of Leila, a nineteenth-century Muslim woman, might allow Khayyam to redeem herself. Alternating between Khayyam's and Leila's perspectives, Ahmed (Internment, 2019) pulls readers into a picturesque Parisian setting that brings the mellifluous language and customs to life, which makes a perfect backdrop for an art mystery entwining seminal artists and writers, along with the woman linking them all. While Khayyam's narrative sometimes relinquishes the plot to play second fiddle to her romantic vexations, the chapters following Leila's story are alluring and captivating. With a determination to give voice to a woman whose story has been erased from the pages of history, Ahmed offers yet another well-wrought and dynamic novel.--Mahjabeen Syed Copyright 2020 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"When 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet (named after Persian poet Omar Khayyam) and university student Alexandre Dumas (named after the French writer, his ancestor), meet by apparent coincidence in Paris one August day, they discover they share a common goal: finding a connection between the 19th-century Dumas and painter Eugène Delacroix. Visiting from Chicago, Khayyam, who is French, Indian, American, and Muslim, wants to jump-start her future as an art historian; Alexandre declares that he wants to preserve his family's legacy. Short, interspersed sections told by 19th-century Leila, the "enslaved harem girl" whom Khayyam believes the original Dumas loved, and who may have inspired both a poem by Byron and a painting by Delacroix, build a suspenseful secondary story line. The book's premise is promising, the Parisian setting enticing, and the dialogue sharply paced. In both scholarship and romance, Khayyam is consistently--if somewhat overtly--cued: she's focused on her professional future, her anger at the way women's stories are elided, and her drive to right that wrong. While the plot development can be hard to follow, punctuated by Khayyam's confusion about a love interest at home and her feelings for Alexandre, Ahmed's (Internment) story succeeds in exploring historical themes of prejudice and who tells whose stories while offering a multi- faceted blend of contemporary and historical intrigue. Ages 14--up. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Apr.)"
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