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About the Author

KAMILA SHAMSIE is the author of five novels: In the City by the Sea, Kartography (both shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), Salt and Saffron, Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and has been translated into more than 20 languages. She is a trustee of English PEN and Free Word, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Writers of 2013. She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.


In this third novel by Shamsie, whose Salt and Saffron landed her on the Orange Prize Futures List, Raheen and Karim share a friendship that in some ways predates their very births. Yet at age 13, they are separated when Karim's family leaves Pakistan, though even more difficult is the divorce of Karim's parents, which blights the relationship between the two friends. Several themes run through the narrative, including how the civil war that divided Pakistan and Bangladesh created turmoil in personal relationships, how personality can be shaped by geography, and how friendships can only truly survive if each takes responsibility for the needs of the other. Shamsie uses a variety of techniques to tell her story, from Karim's hand-drawn maps to letter collages to more conventional prose, and the sensual quality of her writing is best described in her own words: "I unscrew a jar of ink. Scent of smudged words and metal fill the air." Yet despite the many strongly evocative word pictures, there are also patches of bland dialog that detract from the overall effectiveness of the writing. Of interest to collections with a strong international and multicultural focus.-Caroline Hallsworth, City of Greater Sudbury, Ont. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

The trauma of war is typically gauged by loss of lives and property, not broken hearts, but the microcosm is often as powerful an indicator of loss as the macrocosm-or so Shamsie seems to say in her latest novel, a shimmering, quick-witted lament and love story. Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, is a place under constant siege: ethnic, factional, sectarian and simply random acts of violence are the order of the day. This violence-and the lingering legacy of the civil war of 1971-is the backdrop for the story of Raheen and Karim, a girl and boy raised together in the 1970s and '80s, whose lives are shattered when a family secret is revealed. The two friends and their families are members of the city's wealthy elite, personified in its shallowness by family members like Raheen's supercilious Aunt Runty and in guilty social conscience by Karim himself. This is a complex novel, deftly executed and rich in emotional coloratura and wordplay (the title is inspired by Karim's burgeoning obsession with mapmaking, and spelled with a "k" after the city's name). Shamsie pays homage to Calvino with a pastiche of Invisible Cities written by Raheen at her upstate New York college. But Shamsie's novel deals more with ghosts than cities: ghosts of relationships, ghosts of childhood, ghosts of love. A ghost is said to haunt a tree where Raheen's father-once engaged to Karim's mother-carved their initials long ago. Two ghosts representing Karim and Raheen walk an invisible city in Raheen's Calvino tribute. As someone said to Raheen: "There's a ghost of a dream you don't even try to shake free of because you're too in love with the way she haunts you." In similar fashion, Raheen remains in love with Karachi, family and friends, even as one by one their facades crumble. (Aug.) Forecast: Shamsie's cerebral, playful style sets her apart from most of her fellow subcontinental writers. Something of a cross between Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie, she deserves a larger readership in the U.S. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

PRAISE FOR KARTOGRAPHY "[Shamsie] packs her story with the playful evidence of her highflying intelligence." --San Francisco Chronicle "A gorgeous novel of perimeters and boundaries, of the regions-literal and figurative-in which we're comfortable moving about and those through which we'd rather not travel . . . Shamsie's wry humor infuses and quickens the narrative, leavening even the most serious scenes without detracting from their emotional weight." --Los Angeles Times "E. M. Forster's famous plea--'only connect'--reverberates passionately throughout this forceful tale of childhood, love and the power of story-telling." --The Independent "[In Kartography] words are used as vehicles conveying both emotions and intelligence, while at the same time - because the whole novel hinges on a secret that is hidden from the narrator--Shamsie knows that words aren't exactly everything, either." --The Guardian
"Deftly woven, provocative . . . Shamsie's blistering humor and ear for dialogue scorches through [a] whirl of whiskey and witticisms." --The Observer "The descriptions of Karachi were so graphic I could feel the heat and the tension emanating from the pages of the book...Gripping and thought-provoking." "A shimmering, quick-witted lament and love story...This is a complex novel, deftly executed and rich in emotional coloratura and wordplay." --Publishers Weekly, starred review "[Kartography] leaves you feeling wistful and touches some place in your heart you didn't even know existed...Even though the story came to a magnificent end yet you wish [Shamsie] hadn't finished the book." --The Rumpus
"A modern-day romance in a war-ridden city, how love continues to blossom in the rubble of a devastated land."
--Booklist (08/01/2003)
"Shamsie's unique slice-of-life tale beautifully illustrates the unbreakable bonds of love and friendship that are made more durable by forgiveness."

"Described as a young Anita Desai, [Shamsie's] third book, about Karachi during the turbulent 1990s, is worth all the fuss."
--Harper's Bazaar (08/01/2003)
"Its artful uncovering of how people hide from themselves and one another echoes Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things."
--Kirkus (07/01/2003)
"A gorgeous novel. Shamsie's wry humor infuses and quickens the narrative."
--Los Angeles Times
"A shimmering, quick-witted lament and love story. This is a complex novel, deftly executed and rich in emotional coloratura and wordplay."
-- (07/14/2003)
"An ambitious novel that is both a love story and a commentary on the problems that have plagued Pakistan."
--Richmond Times-Dispatch
"At her best describing teeming Karachi and the love, fear and loathing it stirs in the hearts of her characters."

--The Virginia Pilot

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