Only in London by Hanan Al-ShaykhFour strangers meet on a turbulent flight from Dubai to London: Amira, a canny Moroccan prostitute; Lamis, a 30-year old Iraqi divorcee; Nicholas, an English expert on Islamic art; and Samir, a Lebanese man who is delivering a monkey on a mission he doesn’t fully understand. Once safely on British soil, Lamis and Nicholas fall in love, Samir chases after blond British youths, and Amira reinvents herself as a princess, the better to lure clients at the best London hotels. Through the city and across cultural borders, Only in London wittily portrays the smells, sounds, and sights of London’s lively Arab neighorhoods, as well as the freedoms the city both offers and withholds from its immigrants.
Interview with author, Hanan Al-Shaykh (part two)
Qty :. From a major novelist of the Arab world comes a bold, witty and highly contemporary novel about two women looking for love, set in Italy, Lebanon and London Huda and Yvonne are on holiday in the Italian Riviera, enjoying the sun and the sparkling Mediterranean, reminiscent of their childhoods in Lebanon. Yvonne doesn't know what she's doing wrong, either there or back in London where she runs an ad agency — she seems to spend her time waiting for the right man to come along and not leave again just as quickly. Her friend Huda has no problems in this department, only she isn't really interested in her effect on men — till Hisham comes along. But it isn't love spurring Huda on, it's her desire to teach him a lesson.
Until now, Hanan al-Shaykh's novels have been firmly grounded in Arab soil. Who are these people and what kind of lives do they lead? Hanan al-Shaykh tells us the stories of a few of them. We meet the main characters on a plane from Dubai. They are from various Arab countries, thrown together when the plane hits some heavy turbulence. At Heathrow they disperse, having exchanged telephone numbers, and for the rest of the book their paths cross as we follow their adventures.
Hanan al-Shaykh's family background is that of a strict Shi'a family. Her father and brother exerted strict social control over her during her childhood and adolescence. She attended the Almillah primary school for Muslim girls where she received a traditional education for Muslim girls, before continuing her education at the Ahliah school. She continued her gender-segregated education at the American College for Girls in Cairo , Egypt , graduating in She returned to Lebanon to work for the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar until
Love scenes in novels are normally so conventionalised that it's a shock to read one as rich in discovery, misunderstanding and disappointment as the first encounter between Lamis, the heroine of Hanan Al-Shaykh's magnificent new novel, and the Englishman whom she met when he picked up the passport she had dropped on the plane to London: 'His English words were flowing into her ears. They broke up into separate letters and slid in, one by one, feeding the little hairs with delicious food so that they demanded more. There was the flirtation with the letter 'r', which Nicholas often left hanging in the air, like his lips, so that she heard 'hia' instead of 'here' and 'lova' instead of 'lover' Lamis isn't coming to London for the first time - she's returning after a disastrous attempt to set up a flower-arranging business in Dubai the dried poppies she imported as part of her stock in trade were seized as a source of drugs. Now she must start all over again, living in a flat paid for by the husband she has left, who can't bring himself to accept so sudden a break-up. She has never discussed her unhappiness with him, and misses only her son Khalid, being educated into a stranger at great expense.