Leila Aboulela's new novel is The Kindness of Enemies.
From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: Your new novel, The Kindness of Enemies, links two very different time periods and a variety of settings. How did you come up with the idea of combining them into one novel?--Marshal Zeringue
A: [I] needed a bridge to connect the modern reader to the past. So I introduced a present day character, Natasha Hussein, a half-Russian, half Sudanese lecturer of history, living in Scotland.
Natasha is researching the life of [19th century leader Imam] Shamil, [about whom I had written a BBC Radio play in 2005,] and she is a useful guide to the complexities of the past as well as having her own dilemmas in the present.
Q: How did you research the sections of the book that take place in 19th century Russia and the Caucasus, and was there anything that particularly surprised you?
A: I had already done considerable research for writing the radio play but found that new research about Imam Shamil was published in the meantime.
The most significant resource was...[read on]