June 30, 2013

Review :: A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to KashgarA Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disclaimer : Copy received via Goodreads First Reads

It is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie and their zealous leader Millicent at the ancient city of Kashgar to establish a mission. As they encounter resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her book "A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar..."

First problem, Evangeline doesn't own a bike, nor has she ridden one, until she embarks on the mission.
Second problem, Millicent isn't so much a zealot as an annoying, faux religious, maybe lesbian. The character is so under developed you barely notice her when she's not being nasty.
Third problem, Eva doesn't really write a book about cycling as she only rides the bike once and the rest of the time she pushes it, loaded up with items or its in the back of a cart.

In present-day London another story is beginning. Frieda, a young woman adrift in her own life, opens her frond door one night to find a man sleeping on the landing. In the morning is is gone, leaving on the wall an exquisite drawing of a long tailed bird and a line of Arabic script. As their worlds collide, the two wanderers begin an unlikely friendship and they embark on a journey that is great, and as unexpected as Eva's.
I did not get the impression, at any point that Frieda was "adrift". She had a life that was similar to many women I know. Work, boyfriend, travel etc. The bird and the Arabic do not maintain the importance given in the blurb and if what happens between them is "world's colliding", I guess I need to be very cautious in my own.  As for "great journey", going to Surrey, Hastings and Victoria Station hardly qualify.

This book had so much potential! What has happened is three completely separate, and truly interesting stories have been squashed together in 370 pages with no chance for any of them to show their true potential. The connections between the stories are all there but have been left distinctly under developed. Even a little historical context would have been better than nothing. It seems the author assumes readers will have the same level of knowledge of the period as she has.

I have come away from this book frustrated at how much could have been done with this story. I wanted to feel more connected with the experiences of all the characters. Irene Guy's connection should have been made specific far sooner so that the reader, having worked it out early on, isn't left suspended and waiting. There are so many ways that this book could have been developed differently that would have resulted in a more fulfilling experience.

This has left me hugely disappointed and it is disheartening to be left with yet another 3 star review from a book I was lucky enough to win.

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