A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

LadyI was intrigued by this novel, and excited about reading it – and on the whole it mostly delivered.

There are two stories running through the book from a different time – Eva in 1920s Kashgar and Frieda in modern day London – and there is a connection between them which becomes clearer as you move through the novel.

In 1920s Kashgar, Eva is travelling with her sister Lizzie and the missionary Millicent with the intent of setting up Christian missionaries through the middle east (I say intent, because while Lizzie was totally under the influence of Millicent, Eva was using it as an excuse to have an adventure and write a guide book about travelling with her bike). They come across a child in labour, stop to help, but while the baby is safely delivered, the young mother dies, leaving them with a child to look after and facing a charge of murder.

In the modern day, we have Frieda, who works as a researcher of Islamic countries, has a troubled relationship with a married man, and an absent hippy mother. She strikes up a friendship with a young immigrant who is sleeping rough outside her flat, and is then left a property by Irene Guy – although she has no idea who this lady was.

There were a lot of meaty themes running through the book: racial and religious differences, finding one’s place in the world, families, relationships. I generally found the writing good, I liked the way that the two strands came together, yet it lacked something for me which prevented it from being an excellent book and I found some of the characters and situations a little trying. Definitely worth a read though.

Jo

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