Noel Barber. Woman of Cairo. 1984. Reprint Hodder and Stoughton, 2007.
OK, so I read it last fall, not last night. A thick book of immense satisfaction for Egyptophiles, beautifully written; one of those sweeping family sagas but rich in historical figures and detail. After all, the author was a long-time foreign correspondent. The privileged upper class becomes involved in politics and intrigue as the Second World War approaches. More than you ever wanted to know about King Farouk. If you expect some parallels with today’s headlines, you would be right. A current map of Cairo would aid comparison with the pre-war city.
Dennis Lehane, The Moonlight Mile. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Definitely a favoured author, but this one seemed a little off to me. Great dialogue between Kenzie and Gennaro, as good as Spencer, but same doesn’t ring true with the younger generations. Kenzie gets beat up a lot. And he’s in an employment crisis. Strange story, a downer.
William Boyd. Restless. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2006.
Deftly woven tale of espionage and disinformation skills by the Brits, to encourage American entry into the Second World War. Today’s daughter discovers all her mother’s secrets! So different from Boyd’s Stars and Bars comedy! A multi-talented author/writer. Must read yet more Boyd! Observations from the characters:
On the first parental revelations:
Sally Gilmartin was as solid as this gateport, I thought, resting my hand on its warn sandstone, realising at the same time how little we actually, really, know of our parents’ biographies, how vague and undefined they are, like saints’ lives almost — all legend and anecdote — unless we take the trouble to dig deeper. And now this new story, changing everything. (32-33)On the British secret service:
She heard him say that head office was stuffed with the stupidest elite in London, that the people he had to deal with were either idle Pall Mall clubmen or superannuated officials from the Indian Colonial Service. The first lot looked down on the second as petit-bourgeois careerists while the second regarded the first as washed-up remittance-men who only had a job because they had gone to Eton with the boss. (119)On a boyfriend’s influence:
“Karl-Heinz taught me one important thing: he taught me to be fearless, to be unafraid. I’m not fucking afraid of anyone, thanks to him — policemen, judges, skinheads, Oxford dons, poets, parking wardens, intellectuals, yobbos, bores, bitches, headmasters, lawyers, journalists, drunks, politicians, preachers ...” I ran out of people I wasn’t fucking afraid of. ... “It was a valuable lesson.” (138)