According to Wikipedia the novel is 'ostensibly about the murder of a pair of lovers, the book is in fact a minute dissection of working-class Pakistani immigrant communities that have settled in the north of England over the last 40 years.
Aslam spent 11 years writing this book; according to an interview, the first chapter alone took him 6 years to complete. The novel received widespread acclaim on publication, with critics repeatedly referring to the quality of its prose, its remarkable characters, and its exposé of the tortured immigrant experience.'
Book Description from Faber and Faber:
Chanda and Jugnu love each other dearly but are unable to marry until Chanda’s husband can be persuaded to divorce her. Instead they set up house together becoming the object of gossip and judgement for the Muslim community of which they are a part. Their failure to return from a trip to Pakistan eventually results in the arrest of Chanda’s brothers for the couple’s murder. Jugnu’s brother Shamas, the respected director of the local Community Relations Council, and his devout wife Kaukab find their most cherished beliefs challenged as they try to cope with their distress and the uncertainty which ripples throughout both their lives and the tightly-knit community in which they live. In glittering prose studded with gorgeous imagery, Maps for Lost Lovers traces the year following the Jugnu and Chanda’s disappearance illuminating a world which is known to many of us only through the headlines of the newspapers we read.
Book Description from Amazon.com:
If Gabriel García Márquez had chosen to write about Pakistani immigrants in England, he might have produced a novel as beautiful and devastating as Maps for Lost Lovers. Jugnu and Chanda have disappeared. Like thousands of people all over Enland, they were lovers and living together out of wedlock. To Chanda’s family, however, the disgrace was unforgivable. Perhaps enough so as to warrant murder. As he explores the disappearance and its aftermath through the eyes of Jugnu’s worldly older brother, Shamas, and his devout wife, Kaukab, Nadeem Aslam creates a closely observed and affecting portrait of people whose traditions threaten to bury them alive. The result is a tour de force, intimate, affecting, tragic and suspenseful.
Book Description from Random House US:
Jugnu and his lover, Chanda, have disappeared. Though unmarried, they had been living together, embracing the contemporary mores of the English town where they lived but disgracing themselves in the eyes of their close-knit Pakistani community. Rumors about their disappearance abound, but five months go by before anything certain is known. Finally, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for the murder of their sister and Jugnu. Shock and disbelief spread through the community, and for Jugnu’s brother, Shamas, and his wife, Kaukab, it is a moment that marks the beginning of the unravelling of all that is sacred to them. As the novel unfolds over the next twelve months, we watch Kaukab struggle to maintain her Islamic piety as the effects of the double murder prove increasingly corrosive to the life of her family. Upon its publication last year in England, Alan Hollinghurst praised Maps for Lost Lovers as ‘haunting, vivid, and tender,’ and Colm Tóibín hailed it as ‘a superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn.’ Beautifully written, emotionally and sensually arresting—’a Persian love poem for the twenty-first century’ (Books Quarterly)—this deeply felt and moving novel explores the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, nationality, religion, and the most personal crises of faith.
‘Nadeem Aslam's exquisitely drawn portrait of immigrant life in England, Maps for Lost Lovers, was well worth the 11 years he took to finish it... rich in detail, languid in cadence and iridescent with remarkable images... A celebration of love and life.’ — The Observer
‘To read Aslam's physical descriptions is to be reminded of the ability of language to make us re-see the world through analogy and metaphor...[A] remarkable achievement.’ — Kamila Shamsie, The Guardian
‘The critically acclaimed Maps for Lost Lovers [has] earned Aslam a reputation for compassion, politically engaged complexity and a lush writing style.’ — The New York Times
‘The prose is richly atmospheric, his tone engagingly introspective, and his descriptions of the English countryside are infused with an elegiac pastoral sensibility... Aslam's real talent is on display when he ventures into his characters' minds, showing the nuances of their struggles to hold onto God and describing their battles to escape what Joseph Conrad called ‘the exile of utter unbelief’... [A] powerful novel’ — Akash Kapur, The New York Times
‘[A] beautifully written novel.’ — The Washington Post
‘A dramatic and moving portrayal of Muslim life in a Northern town.’ — The Independent
‘Extraordinary . . . Writing such as this not only gives dignity to people that we see, if at all, as benighted and lost; it deepens our knowledge of life . . . Combining within himself the social historian with the poet, the realist with the romantic, Aslam has created a novel which—grave yet exultant, brutal but compassionate—achieves its complex humanity, and its final affirmations of love and beauty, through a real reckoning with despair and heartbreak.’ —Pankaj Mishra, New York Review of Books ‘
Aslam is a rich and vividly metaphorical writer . . . This is an exquisitely sad novel, and it is worth the effort of letting its spell take you over.’ —Newsday ‘
Poetic, sensuous, precisely descriptive and lavishly allusive prose . . . The prevailingly tragic atmosphere is shot through with luminous gleams of beauty, hope and light, making Maps for Lost Lovers not only an important and memorable achievement, but a book that is deeply satisfying to read.’ —The Washington Times ‘
Aslam manages an impressive feat: His prose is stylistically dazzling, full of poetic, richly descriptive and tender passages . . . His characters’ inner lives are explored in-depth, flaws and all. Their loneliness and despair are instantly recognizable, resulting in a novel as affecting as it is provocative.’ —Los Angeles Times Book Review
Here's the printed version of the book: