“I live in between spaces. The borders between nations, the invisible hyphen between words, the wide chasm between “one of us” and me alone. French American. Indian American. Muslim American. Biracial. Interfaith. Child of immigrants.”
In this profoundly rich and riveting tale of two young Muslim women from different centuries and continents, Samira Ahmed has beautifully weaved together two unforgettable narratives in a thought-provoking literary mystery set to uncover a voice that has been silenced throughout history.
Set in the heart of picturesque Paris, aspiring art historian Khayyam finds herself swept up in an investigation with a charming young Parisian – who happens to be a distant relative of the legendary novelist Alexandre Dumas – to uncover the mysterious woman who served as an inspiring yet voiceless muse for the great French novelist Alexandre Dumas, French artist Eugene Delacroix and English poet Lord Byron.
Parallel to Khayyam’s narrative is the story of this mysterious woman, Leila – a 19th century Muslim woman, living as a harem in the Ottoman Empire. Suppressed and silenced, Leila reveals her heartbreaking fight to keep her true love hidden from her jealous captor and how her survival becomes interlaced with the lives of Dumas, Delacroix and Bryon.
Intricately rooted in 19th century art and literature, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know is a passionate and inspiring story of destiny, heritage and history, with a heartfelt devotion to the women whose stories have been erased from the pages of history. Despite having no knowledge in art history, I still found Ahmed’s narrative profoundly enlightening, and, above all else, entertaining. The overarching academic mystery was impressively well-researched, and the enticing trails of clues were skilfully plotted, creating a seamless blurring of fact and fiction. Whilst the addition of a teenage romance gently braided into the beautiful backdrop of the city of lights – a setting so elegantly brought to life through Ahmed’s descriptive and vibrant prose – kept the narrative refreshingly light and inviting.
A must read for fans of historical and literary fiction, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know will sweep you across time to hidden histories and unheard voices.