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Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

by Samira Ahmed

'new gen' - Great Books for Young Adults Historical Fiction

LoveReading View on Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

Shot-through with a vital message about the importance of giving voice and rightful representation to women who’ve been silenced by centuries of patriarchy, this smart novel melds an intriguing art history mystery with Parisian amour.

While Khayyam is clear about what she wants to do with her life - become a respected art historian - her identity is more complex. She’s “French American. Indian American. Muslim American. Biracial. Interfaith.” As such, “Others look at me and try to shove me into their own narrative to define who and what I am. But I’m not a blank page that everyone else gets to write on. I have my own voice.” This statement weaves through the whole novel, which sees Khayyam in Paris for the summer, still reeling from a relationship gone awry back home in Chicago, and from her Young Scholar Prize essay being dismissed as “the work of a dilettante, not a future art historian”.

When she happens to run into a cute Parisian boy, who happens to be a descendent of bi-racial French writer Alexandre Dumas, Khayyam and said cute boy (also called Alexandre) embark on an intellectual voyage that leads them to Leila, a nineteenth-century Muslim woman connected to Dumas and Byron. Leila’s forgotten life and silenced voice is revealed through her letters, with Khayyam frequently asserting her desire to right the wrong of “the entire world dehumanizing and erasing this woman who had a life, who mattered.” Through Khayyam the novel also addresses issues around representation and cultural appropriation as she wrestles with determining who has the right to tell Leila’s story, including herself. As Khayyam’s findings hot up, so too does her love life. First there’s the spark between her and Alexandre, then there’s the simmering presence of her Chicagoan ex.

With Paris vibrantly evoked as her stage - its history, architecture, secret gardens and food - Leila’s personal life and intellectual prowess combine to create a life-changing summer. This comes hugely commended - and recommended - for its portrayal of an intelligent young woman who refuses to bow to expectations, and who’s determined to give voice to the voiceless. Like Khayyam, it’s smart, thoughtful and inspirational.

Joanne Owen

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know Synopsis

It is August in Paris and budding art historian Khayyam should be having the time of her life - but even in the City of Lights she can't stop worrying about the mess she left back home in Chicago. Only when she meets a cute young Parisian - who happens to be a distant relative of the novelist Alexandre Dumas - do things start to get interesting, as she starts to unveil the story of a 19th century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Dumas, Eugene Delacroix and Lord Byron.

Two hundred years earlier in the Ottoman empire, Leila is the most favoured woman in the Pasha's harem. Her position is meant to be coveted; but she is struggling to survive as she fights to keep her true love hidden from her jealous captor. Echoing across centuries, as Khayyam uncovers the scintillating truth of Leila's long-forgotten life, her own destiny is transformed forever.

Dear Reader, 

Every story is a journey. The journey of Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know began decades ago when I read Byron's 'Giaour', and it continued as I perused Napoleon's journals in a university archive....download Samira's full letter here.

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Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know Press Reviews

'Ahmed pulls readers into a picturesque Parisian setting that brings the mellifluous language and customs to life, which makes a perfect backdrop for an art mystery . . . With a determination to give voice to a woman whose story has been erased from the pages of history, Ahmed offers yet another well-wrought and dynamic novel' - Booklist

'Ahmed explores weighty themes including Orientalism, women silenced by history, and the responsibility of sharing their unheard voices . . . An entertaining tale that will appeal most to fans of art history and literature' - Kirkus Reviews

'Rich, emotional and inspirational. Samira Ahmed does it again with a work of art that reads like an anthem for the voices silenced throughout history, and a call to raise our own. Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a deeply thought-provoking, immersive love story to the hidden histories that dwell within us-and like any good story, it will live in your heart for years to come Ahmed tackles weighty issues with thoughtfulness and flair. I was completely swept away Ahmed's brilliant novel shows that the familiar journey of being smart, in love, and a little lost is as profound now as it was in the 19th century. Add in a romance in the hidden gardens of Paris and an explosive trove of lost historical letters from a woman almost forgotten and you've got a fresh, thoughtful joyride that you'll want to read with every woman and girl you know The inventive Ahmed returns with a brilliant novel about race, history and choosing your own history' - The i

'A smart feminist holiday read, asking questions about whose voices are honoured by history' - Guardian

'Ahmed's brilliant novel shows that the familiar journey of being smart, in love, and a little lost is as profound now as it was in the 19th century. Add in a romance in the hidden gardens of Paris and an explosive trove of lost historical letters from a woman almost forgotten and you've got a fresh, thoughtful joyride that you'll want to read with every woman and girl you know' - Kim Liggett, author of The Grace Year

'Ahmed tackles weighty issues with thoughtfulness and flair. I was completely swept away' - Sandhya Menon, New York times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi

'Rich, emotional and inspirational. Samira Ahmed does it again with a work of art that reads like an anthem for the voices silenced throughout history, and a call to raise our own. Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a deeply thought-provoking, immersive love story to the hidden histories that dwell within us-and like any good story, it will live in your heart for years to come' - Farah Naz Rishi, author of I Hope You Get This Message

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780349003559
Publication date: 20/08/2020
Publisher: ATOM an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780349003559
Publication date: 20th August 2020
Author: Samira Ahmed
Publisher: ATOM an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 336 pages
Genres: NewGen - YA Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Categories: General fiction (Children's / Teenage),

About Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed is the New York Times bestselling and Indies Introduce author of LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS. She was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices and potpourri. Samira once spent a year searching for the perfect mango, eventually learning that the quest was always about the journey and not merely the destination. She graduated from the University of Chicago and has taught high school English and worked in education non-profits and on political campaigns. These days, she lives and writes in Chicago, every keystroke reminding her ...

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