Only in London

Overview

Four 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 ...
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Only in London

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Overview

Four 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.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Madcap, moving and always fascinating.” --The Washington Post

“As the story follows their adventures, some comic, some pathetic, each character finds a different London....[al-Shaykh’s] novel is funny and beautifully written. She has a perfect ear for dialogue and tone.” —Sunday Telegraph

“For all its deceptive lightness of touch, the novel teems with ideas: memory and exile, language, desire and identity, and the search for order in the chaos of a metropolis. It is also very funny. London...allows Shaykh to exercise her trenchant, at times ribald, wit.” —Literary Review

Only in London offers an exquisite perspective of estrangement and recognition.” —The Observer

Publishers Weekly
A chance meeting of four strangers on a turbulent plane ride from Dubai to London sets the stage for this fourth novel by acclaimed Lebanese author al-Shaykh (Women of Sand and Myrrh; Beirut Blues). Lamis is an Iraqi woman who has just divorced her much older husband, a man she moved to London to wed in an arranged marriage. Amira is a sassy and resourceful prostitute from Morocco, who plies her trade in the upper-class hotels of Mayfair. Samir is a flamboyant gay Lebanese man who is smuggling a monkey into the country for cash. Nicholas is an Englishman working for Sotheby's who travels frequently to Oman and has a fascination with the Arab world. Back in London, their lives become busily intertwined. As Lamis negotiates her independence in a country she wants desperately to feel a part of while also maintaining ties with her adolescent son, who lives with his father she begins an affair with Nicholas, whose love and urge to shelter her begin to threaten her new sense of self. Amira and Samir, meanwhile, form a partnership of their own. He moves in with her and chases good-looking young men, while trying to forget about the reality of his wife and five children back in Beirut; she concocts a scheme of masquerading as an Arab princess to attract a grander clientele. The themes of Eastern and Western identity, love, sex, independence and freedom are deftly woven into the lives of four vivid characters whose antics tumble into comedy as often as into drama. Busy, gossipy and chock-full of unexpected cultural insights, this tale should entertain readers as diverse as the Arab expatriates it depicts. (Oct. 9) Forecast: Al-Shaykh should pick up more U.S. readers with this confident,entertaining novel. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Among the most celebrated contemporary Arab writers, Lebanese-born al-Shaykh (I Sweep the Sun off Rooftops) returns to London in her latest work, a comical but poignant novel that draws multiple distinctions between Arab and British cultures. After the narrative's quirky foursome meet during a turbulent flight from Dubai, their lives slowly intermingle as they seek happiness, companionship, and prosperity with one another. The colorful, cross-dressing Samir moves in with Amira, a Moroccan prostitute posing as an Arab princess. Recently divorced, the young Iraqi Lamis pursues her newfound freedom, albeit ambivalently, and becomes the lover of Nicholas, a Sotheby authority on Islamic artifacts. East-West dissimilarities create the most trouble for Lamis, but the vigor and fortitude with which al-Shaykh endows all four steer them through all the possible perils of cultural clash. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Lib. Syst., Eugene Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this fifth work of fiction from the Lebanese-born author of, most notably, Women of Sand and Myrrh (1992), four travelers arrive in London from Dubai and pair off in combinations that embody conventional (and, for all their surface oddity, rather predictable) cultural contrasts. The liveliest passages involve Samir, a hypersensitive transvestite who has unwittingly transported contraband. But al-Shaykh doesn't do much with the initially promising other figures of a devious prostitute, a glamorous opium dealer, and a randy Sotheby's weapons expert. Frothier and more fun than this author's typical fiction, but it doesn't dig deep, and doesn't linger in the memory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385721219
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/8/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.21 (w) x 7.97 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Hanan al-Shaykh was born and raised in Lebanon. She is the author of three novels—Women of Sand and Myrrh, The Story of Zahra, and Beirut Blues—as well as a collection of short stories, I Sweep the Sun Off Rooftops. She currently lives in London with her husband and two children.
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