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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

It is 1923. Evangeline (Eva) English and her sister Lizzie are missionaries heading for the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. Though Lizzie is on fire with her religious calling, Eva’s motives are not quite as noble, but with her green bicycle and a commission from a publisher to write A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, she is ready for adventure. In present day London, a young woman, Frieda, returns from a long trip abroad to find a man sleeping outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and a pillow, and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and an exquisite drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some delicate Arabic writing, and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together. A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar explores the…

Overall Book Review:

The whimsically named A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar is anything but whimsical.  (And ironically, there is very little actual cycling.)  Instead it is a somber book that alternates between Eva English’s journals from the 1920’s and contemporary events in modern-day London.  From page one there is a sense of foreboding that things in Kashgar will go terribly wrong for Eva and her group.  Likewise, the contemporary storyline–following the rudderless illegal immigrant Tayeb and the disillusioned Frieda–is flecked with melancholy and a sense of aimlessness.  In the last 30 pages, Joinson throws off the story’s moody shackles and lets her characters take brief flight, ending on a small note of hope.  Joinson’s voicing of Eva is lovely.  The excerpts from Bicycling for Ladies at the beginning of Eva’s journal entries are truly charming and delightful.  However, if you are a reader who likes your books wrapped up neatly, then you may be disappointed.  Joinson applies a subtle hand at the end and leaves many questions and motivations unexplored and unexplained. 

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Bloomsbury Sunbrights

This review was of an uncorrected Advance Reader Copy.
Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  3 religious exclamations; 1 mild obscenity; 4 derogatory names; 2 scatalogical words; 4 F-word derivatives.

Violene/Gore:  Man is attacked for not providing sexual favors to other men; a minor-aged girl dies in childbirth (graphic description with blood); scene in which birds are slaughtered for sport (1 page, some description); a vehicle crashes and people are crushed; a character punches a policeman; pamphlet describes in detail the deliberate cutting of tongues; deliberate death from starvation; report of a rape and subsequent abortion (no details); generic report of uprising and deaths; report of a non-accidental drowning.

Sex/Nudity:  Men proposition another man for sex; mention of a wet nurse’s breasts; baby’s disfigured genitals mentioned; reference to Sunnah tradition to remove hair from “private parts”; character engaged in affair with married man with scenes of sexual activity w/o explicit detail; a child walks in on her mother in bed with a man who is not her father; woman swims half-naked in ocean; man has sexual thoughts about a woman; reference to pregnancy out of wedlock; reference to an affair resulting in pregnancy; a character is in a bath towel for a scene; a character becomes a mistress to a married man; 1 page scene of homosexual sexual activity, some explicit detail.

Mature Subject Matter:

Homosexuality, illegal immigration, vandalism, adoption, religion, war, parental abandonment.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Smoking and drinking throughout by adults.  A man is drunk and unrinates in his daughter’s bedroom.  Reference to opium and opium dens.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!