The official publication date for the paperback edition of Suzanne Joinson's novel A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar is tomorrow, but I see the book is already available in one or two places so I'm flagging it up today. I read it last year and chose it as one of my top novels of 2012, and here's what I had to say about it:
"A secret notebook. An unlikely inheritance. A collision of worlds." That really does encapsulate the two interwoven plot strands - three lady missionaries in the remote city of Kashgar, East Turkestan, in early 1923, and Frieda in present-day London. As Evangeline English travels the Silk Road with her sister Lizzie and the formidable Millicent, representative of the Missionary Order of the Steadfast Face, her plans to write "A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar" along the way are disrupted by a birth, a death, and revelations which cause her to question much about her life. Years later in London, Frieda encounters a Yemeni man adrift in the city, and his strange presence and the sudden knowledge that she is heir to a dead woman she has never heard of will eventually bring her closer to making peace with her past and finding a new future.
There's great strength in the writing here, it's very vivid and compelling, and once the reader has settled into the two starkly different worlds of the book, they'll be drawn on to keep turning the pages. The book's themes are beautifully played out, and Suzy's light touch where her material is concerned is assured and effective; she gets her pacing right, too, letting her tightly folded stories gradually unfurl in pleasing form and using some beautifully crafted lines to achieve this.
Those themes I referred to but didn't elaborate on are covered in my interview with Suzy - do read that if you haven't already done so as it's enlightening - and then read Suzy's recent post on the Waterstones blog, "In pursuit of 'the zone': in search of that elusive 'perfect' place to sit and write".