Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: Chronicle of a Last Summer

Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt

Chronicle of a Last Summer
Yasmine El Rashidi

The female narrator tells of her family life in Egypt. The story is divided into three distinct parts. The first part starts when she is a child in the summer of 1984. Her father disappears and no one seems to explain to her why he left the family or when and if he is coming back. The narrator and her mother live in the families ancient villa, which is full of history and memories. So much so that her mother shuts herself off in her own few rooms, in order to avoid the sad parts of the villa that remind her too much of the past.

The second part of the book focuses on the summer of 1998 when the narrator is studying to be a film maker. She also looks at the relations she has with her family and explains the events happening in the city as well. We see Cairo as a large bustling metropolis that suffers from poverty, corruption, arbitrary police force and the military.

The third part focuses on the summer of 2014, where the narrator is now concentrating on writing a book. Her cousin has been sent to prison and her father has returned. Her mother, who up to now has languished in what seems like an almost catatonic state has been brought back to live by the revolution and its aftermath. But the main character still seems little involved in the momentous events of this time. Even the ousting of President Morsi doesn't seem to play a large role in her story. She doesn't even get out of bed to vote, due to late nights spent writing.

I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand, the structure was interesting and there were some profound thoughts conveyed by many of the older characters in this book. On the other hand the story rambled in places and it was often too vague. I think a more forthright, descriptive approach might have made this a more powerful book. Also some of the characters and their stories seemed incomplete and there were too many shadows and empty spaces that needed to be filled in to make it a more complex and satisfying story.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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