I would’ve skimmed through this book, had I not been spending all of my free time obsessing over MDZS and The Untamed. But that’s a story for another day 🙂
I’m not a history buff as such, even though I love to live in my own nostalgia, but I can imagine how precious this book would be for art and history aficionados. The story is a simple yet interesting one – a summer fling, a treasure hunt, lots of famous poets, two heroines connected over centuries and a story that needs to be discovered.
Our present day heroine is Khayyam – a Muslim, American, French teenager spending a summer vacation with her doting parents in Paris and trying to figure out her love life as well as her future. Our heroine from the past is Leila, a concubine to the emperor Pasha and probably the inspiration behind Lord Byron’s Giaour poems. I felt like the whole book was Leila and Khayyam’s stories, with all the other men – present and past, being present as supporting characters in this narrative. I actually enjoyed that perspective a lot.
I have very little knowledge of poems or familiar with the works of famous poets, so I actually had to Google a lot of stuff to figure out which parts were real and which were fiction. That’s why, the treasure hunt parts were confusing for me, and probably the least interesting parts because I just couldn’t catch all the literary references (my bad). For me, the most interesting parts in the book were reading Leila’s narrative, and the author’s introspective moments in the book, via Khayyam’s thoughts. I love the way Samira Ahmed writes – there is a certain poetic and melancholic element to her writing style, that tugged at my heart strings.
If you’re picking up this book for the romance, then its probably best not to, since really, I felt like both the male characters – Zaid and Alexandre, were just there to help Leila and Khayyam’s story move forward. I actually felt that Khayyam’s parents had more personality than both the male protagonists in the little story time that they shared 😀
I loved all the picnic scenes during the treasure hunt that Khayyam and Alexandre experience. I want to go and visit all those libraries and literary places and all those cafes whenever I get a chance to visit Paris 😀
I was a little confused with the few times that Dumas’s biracial background was mentioned in the story, especially by Alexandre when he is arguing with Khayyam regarding the rights of minorities, women and slaves in history. I felt like it might have helped to have more information regarding both Dumas’s background and his struggles as well as Leila’s struggle being a Muslim woman in that time in history. I was also a little taken aback with the mystical element of Si’La in the story, it felt out of place in the overall narrative, but I wished there was more of Si’La and Leila’s narrative considering I’m such a fantasy buff 😀 LOL
Overall, I felt this was a good book to pick up if you’re looking for a fictional book to read with relevant Muslim, female and South Asian representation along with a lot of art and historic references. Also, I felt this book was definitely more YA than I’m used to.
***Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange of an honest review***