Book 163: Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Finished reading on April 5th, 2015

Rating: 9/10

The book was first published in Arabic in 1956 and the author was awarded the Nobel prize in literature in 1988. It’s the first part of The Cairo Trilogy.
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“Palace Walk” takes place in Cairo during the First World War, when Egypt had been under the British rule for a while, and it looks at the life of a family living in a house in Palace Walk.

The family is headed by a serious and apparently pious al-Sayyid Ahmad al-Jawad, who is served by his wife Amina. The book revolves around the various problems the children and Amina face under al-Sayyid Ahmad’s rule.

In the beginning the problems seem quite easy – hiding the youngest son Kamal’s mischief’s from the father, the two daughters Khadija’s and Aisha’s constant nagging, but then bigger ones ensue, when the reader finds out more about the nature of the father, who may appear like a good role-model, but probably is not,and about his eldest son Yasin, who is taking after his father in several ways…

I found the book interesting for several reasons- first off it’s the first book I’ve read where the women of the house have been confined there because of the man’s religiosity.
The second interesting part came later in the book as there are uprisings and demonstrations in Cairo and all across Egypt, in which one of the children secretly takes part in.

All in all it has many interesting themes and ofcourse as it was the first book I read that’s set in Egypt, it was fascinating.

In at least one way it reminded me of Jane Austen’s writing, as one of the big themes in the book is marriage – both daughters wish to get married – the eldest Khadija is over twenty and hasn’t had any marriage offers yet, while the younger Aisha has gotten offers before, but the father wouldn’t let Aisha marry before the older daughter has been settled – and ofcourse the reason for why one sister is more appealing than the other is because the younger one is blond and attractive, while the older daughter is darker and according to the whole family has a huge nose. Although there’s talk of marriage there’s no romance in the book 🙂 There’s lust and desire but barely any mention of love – all marriages are decided by the father.

There are certainly some unexpected twists or events in the book, where you couldn’t possibly guess what the outcome will be.

It was surprising to me how although there’s talk about the uprisings and shootings, the book doesn’t read as violent as I’ve gotten used to in case of books set in the Middle East or Asia…

I will certainly be continuing with this trilogy as Palace Walk leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Book 19: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

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The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Finished reading December 16, 2012

Rating 9/10

I read this book mostly while sitting on a bus, that is I started reading it last Monday in the morning, going home from Tallinn and when I went back to Tallinn on Saturday I was rather sad that the trip (186km) only lasted for two and a half hours, because I had 40 more pages to read (and it’s hopeless to read anything much while I*m staying there – I had to agree to watching The Amazing Spider-Man on Sunday just to be able to finish reading the book. The Movie was fine though.).

I thought that the book was great. Refreshing after all the non-fiction I’ve been reading lately and very interesting (not that I would have been reading sleep-inducingly boring books recently…).

Apparently there are so many people who just want to leave their home country in search of something.

“[…] Just ordinary humans in ordinary opaque boiled-egg light, without grace, without revelation, composite of contradictions, easy principles, arguing about what they half believe in or even what they didn’t believe in at all, desiring comfort as much as raw austerity, authenticity as much as playacting, desiring coziness of family as much as to abandon it forever.” K. Desai

Fine, it’s not really “just”, it’s almost always when it becomes too difficult to cope at home or it’s easier to leave. (I wonder whether it’s for the same reason that the early humans left Africa to conquer the world…).

I almost wish I were on a really long bus-trip with only this book with me so that I could read it again.

It was truly fascinating.

Right now I’m still a bit in a loss for words about it. I seem to get lost in thoughts when I try to think of some of the story-lines in the book.

In one word: Great.

Book 2: The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq

Pilt“The Possibility of an Island” by Michel Houellebecq (2006, Vintage international)

Finished reading it on 21.08.2012

Rating: 7 points out of 10

This book sat on my bedside table for weeks and it also occupied my desk and and my bag and it basically ended up coming with me to a lot of places and being undeservedly left unnoticed, because I’d almost always have a non-fiction book with me, which would win over it every time.

And then it got a little more interesting. The plot isn’t bad, I’d say it’s actually good, maybe just a bit unusual at times.

It goes about Daniel and his clones that come after him and are writing Daniel1-s life-story. It does make one think. “Would you want to be immortal?” might be one of the questions you’d end up asking other people trying to figure out an answer for yourself.

And also, since some parts of the novel take the reader to a dystopian future, make one think that right now might actually be one of the high points of human civilization. I’d rather prefer it not to be so, but it would be a better option than having it in the past.

I think it is worth reading, even if it might seem a little disturbing at times.