Lyrics Alley is the story of an affluent, influential Sudanese family shaken by the shifting powers in their country and the near tragedy that threatens the legacy they’ve built for decades.
In 1950s Sudan, the powerful and sprawling Abuzeid dynasty has amassed a fortune with their trading firm, one of the only indigenous companies in a business dominated by their British occupiers. With Mahmoud Bey at its helm, they can do no wrong. But when Mahmoud’s son, Nur, the brilliant, handsome heir to his business empire, suffers a debilitating accident, his hopes of university and marriage to his beloved cousin, Soraya, are dashed.
As Sudan’s diverging ethnic and religious populations collide and British rule nears its end, the country is torn between modernizing influences and the call of traditions past—a divide reflected in the growing tensions between Mahmoud’s two wives: the younger, Nabilah, longs to return to Egypt and escape the dust of “backward-looking” Sudan; while Waheeba is confined to her open-air kitchen and resents Nabilah’s influence on her family. It is not until Nur begins to assert himself outside the strict cultural limits of his parents that both his own spirit and the frayed bonds of his family can begin to mend.
In Lyrics Alley, Leila Aboulela takes readers to the heart of what it means to have faith in an unforgiving world. Moving from the alleys of Sudan to cosmopolitan Cairo and a decimated post-colonial Britain, this sweeping tale of desire and loss, faith, despair, and reconciliationis one of the most accomplished and evocative portraits ever written of Sudanese society at the time of independence.