Laury Silvers’ The Lover: A review.

Recently, I read Islamicist academic Laury Silvers’ debute novel called The Lover. It’s a murder mystery set in 10th Century Baghdad.

Unlike many historical novels set in the Middle Ages/Classical Period, it does not focus on the high and mighty, but rather on the working classes.

During the course of the book, the reader meets the enslaved, washerwomen, child domestic workers, corpsewashers and the “fuqara’ “, “the poor” – Muslim mystics who choose a life of ascetism and worldly poverty and spiritual wealth.

One of the most striking things about this book is that it shows both sides of life – beauty and pain.

Something else that is worth noting is that although the book is clearly written with great love for Islam, Sufism, Muslims and their histories, it does not for one moment romaticize the past & that it realistically paints the hardships of the poor, enslaved, working classes and soldiers.

Another interesting aspect is that it shows Islam -and Muslims, for that matter-  in all their diversity: Arabs from Baghdad, tribal Arabs, Nubians, Chinese, Persians, Turkmens, Shiites, Sufis, Hanbalis and others make their appearances – never as tokens or tropes, but as real, flesh-and-blood beings with all their passions and resentments, rights and wrongs.

And last but not least, our heroine Zaytuna. She is a Nubian washer woman, daughter to a famous local mystical woman who is named “The Black Lover’. Scrupulous and pious, she yet struggles to find joy and beauty in life and religion. At the end of the book, she is changed – and so will the reader.

A terrific read for anyone who is interested in Sufism, Islam, Iraq, the Middle Ages, murder mysteries, or just likes a good story.