The Map of Love is very well written, with lots of insight on a critical period in the History of Egypt. Amal, the primary charachter in the book, is very warm and real. You can actually picture her in an appartment in Cairo working through the night on the manuscripts.
Her "counterpart" from nearly a century earlier is equally real. The male charachters are not as well developed, Sheriff basha and Omar come across a bit too good, too perfect!
The book deals very well with the confused nature of the modern egyptian society and its roots; part islamic, part Turkish, part Arabic, a bit of French with a unique Egyptian outcome. Refernce to some of Ahdaf Souif's earlier books' characheters is very clever.
The scenes in Upper Egypt are particularly clever. The Palestinian Israeli part did not do much for me and the brother's politics came across contrieved, almost inserted in as an after thought to show the on going family struggle. Too many birds to hit with the one stone!
Parts of the plot are somewhat shaky with a couple of "one in a million" type occurances taking place. A supernatural bit, while very minor, detracts from the book.
Ahdaf Souief, as always, is truely a fantastic read, and this is one more book by her that is really difficult to put down.
Use the very well prepared glossery at the end of the book everytime you come across an unfamilar word. It will help so much in your appreciation of the book.
If you want a truelly Ahdaf Souief masterpiece read Eye of the Sun. If you don't have the mental and emotional energy for 800 pages then read Aisha and then Sandpiper.