I have read this book a couple of times now, first with my old Dutch book club, then I suggested it to the international one.
The story informs about the history of Egypt, is a family saga and a love story, well, actually a couple of love stories. An American worman discovers old documents of her family, both in English and Arabic. Through a friend she is directed to an Egyptian woman and the two of them go through the documents and their mutual history. Most of the documents relate to the love between an English Lady and an Egyptian Nationalist in 1900. The two women find a link between their two families.
This book describes British Colonialism, Egyptian nationalism and the difference between the two people both a hundred years ago and today.
The novel has everything, drama, history, modern times, love story, politics, you name it. I loved it. It might be even more important today than it was ten years ago.
From the back cover: "In 1900 Lady Anna Winterbourne travels to Egypt where she falls in love with Sharif, and Egyptian Nationalist utterly committed to his country's cause. A hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, an American divorcee and a descendant of Anna and Sharif, goes to Egypt, taking with her an old family trunk, inside which are found notebooks and journals which reveal Anna and Sharif's secret."
Ahdaf Soueif was shortlisted for the Booker Prize "The Map of Love" in 1999.
We discussed this in our book club in September 2002.
I also read "Aisha", a collection of short stories. I'm not a big fan of short stories but these are very good. One could say that I am a fan of Ahdaf Soueid's work.