Monday, 14 December 2020

Wondrous Journeys In Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr


Wondrous Journeys In Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr
First published in Arabic by Tamer Institute in 2013. English language translation by Marcia Lynx Qualey published by Interlink on the 1st September 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Award-winning historical fantasy and literary folktale.
Winner of the presigious Etisalat award.

In a tent at the foot of a mountain in Palestine, hundreds of years ago, our storyteller and her twin sister are born. Her newlywed parents name her Qamr (Moon) and her sister Shams (Sun). Their small caravan is journeying from the mother's city back to the father's remote ancestral village atop the mountain. This village suffers from isolation and a curse, which her young family tries to undo. But when both her parents' lives are cut short, Qamr and her sister are left orphans. And so, Qamr decides to pursue her mother's and father's dreams of discovering the world--its people and places, ideas and stories. With the red book in hand that brought her parents together, she sets out on a daring journey, on caravans and ships, across empires.

Telling stories to survive, Qamr crosses deserts and seas: to Jerusalem and Gaza; Egypt, Tangier, Andalusia and Genoa; Abyssinia, India, the Maldives and Yemen. Kidnapped by bandits, sold as a slave to the House of a mad King, studying with a polymath, disguising as a man and falling in love for the first time--with a pirate: Qamr searches irrepressibly for life, in endless stories within stories. Like the famous travel narratives of the 14th century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, Sonia Nimr's award-winning Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands is a richly imagined feminist fable and a captivating, adventure-filled historical novel.

Wondrous Journeys In Strange Lands is a beautifully envisaged feminist adventure tale set in a fluidly historic era that recounts the amazing life and travels of storyteller, Qamr. We are never told exactly how many hundreds of years ago this story takes place so my imagination rooted it in a kind of Arabian Nights fairytale context which suited the prose style and Qamr's adventures. I loved how Nimr weaves many different tales into the narrative. The literary device of the book I read, Wondrous Journeys In Strange Lands, also being a tangible book within the story is inspired and its frequent fortuitous appearances added a deep sense of magic. Qamr's storytelling talent gets her out of several awkward situations and I often wondered how much of her adventures were 'genuine' and how much she embellished for the sake of a compelling tale!

Qamr herself is a memorable heroine. Brave and quick witted, her travels take her from her isolated, superstitious childhood village across deserts by camel caravans and across oceans in a pirate ship. Qamr is very much a woman in a male-dominated world, but she finds ingenious ways to further her travels. Her character and motivations always felt authentic to me with a convincing depth that I really appreciated. Wondrous Journeys In Strange Lands is the kind of classic adventure tale I couldn't get enough of as a child and I would have adored that this one centres on a woman's expeditions. I still adore that about it now!


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Sonia Nimr / Adventure stories / Books from Palestine

4 comments:

  1. This sounds amazing and the cover is stunning!

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    1. This was such a fab story and I find my thoughts keep turning to aspects of the book even several days after I finished reading

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  2. I really like the sound of this being a fun adventure story with a fairytale kind of feel to it. The setting sounds lovely and it seems like you had a lot of enjoyment reading this one ^.^

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    1. I certainly did! I'm so happy to have had the opportunity to read this because I'm not sure I would have discovered it independently and it was such a treat to read :-)

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