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Monday, September 19, 2011

Review - Rosie Thomas 's IRIS AND RUBY

This is two distinct stories - one in the present and one in the past. Iris 82 years old who has lived her entire adult life out of England and considers Cairo home. She has lived and loved her life in Cairo. We have Ruby her very young grand daughter - rebellious not seeing eye to eye with her mother Lesley and step father and just knowing that she somehow does not fit in with the family now.

Ruby arrives in Cairo - unannounced, unexpected and unwelcome! she is nonplussed by the lack of welcome and does not realize that Iris just longs to live each day in the past, in a quiet reminiscence of what happened and does not want to be rudely brought into the present times.  Through their brief interaction Iris re-lives her entire life by talking to Ruby of incidents in her past - snippets here and there, seemingly unconnected and Ruby slowly unravels her grandmothers very rich life. Ruby seems to be a typical teenager making friends with her taxi driver and falling in love with his brother overnight - she also finds it difficult to adapt to the idea that being in love with someone does not necessarily mean that you have to have a physical relationship with him and is nonplussed at her boyfriend reluctance to engage in sex right away!! At the same time Ruby's relationship with Jas her friend who died also shows depths in Ruby's character which were not apparent till now. The death of Jas was the reason why Ruby felt she had to get away from everyone and go to a place where she was not known.

The story of Iris is mainly focussed on the period of WWII - very interesting time in Egypt's history it being so pivotal during the WW and in Ruby's case it is very much a modern one of here and now in Cairo, changed and yet seemingly unchanged culture wise. This was a nice peek into the Cairo of then and now. The story of Egypt during the WW was very interesting as it showed the importance that the allies placed on Egypt as being the center and the place which divided the West from the East. It shows the privileged life of the Westerner in a poor country even at times of war, enjoying privileges and luxuries denied the people of the country. Iris working in an administrative capacity at the time realises that she can do something by training to be a nurse, and she does so finally moving on to become a doctor much later in her life.

For someone like me who does not travel much and who very much likes to, books like these are interesting reads. I liked the distinction between the old and the new Cairo, the descriptiveness of the markets, the streets, the deserts and even the museums and history all bring Cairo very much to life.

7 comments:

CHE said...

sounds great. Like you, I too love travel but haven't been able to lately so books are a great way to explore a country and its culture.

Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

This one is new to me, but it sounds really good. I love being able to visit a different culture or country when I'm reading. Great post!

Anna said...

You make a great point about how books enable you to travel when you can't do it for real. I think I would be very interested in Iris' story, as I have read very little about Egypt during WWII. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention. I will link to your review on War Through the Generations.

Blodeuedd said...

I read and liked this one, I might have cried to

Sam said...

I love split narrative historical fiction like this, and the Egyptian setting makes me want to read it even more!

Marie said...

I think i'd like this book a lot- I'm an armchair traveler too!

Laura @ I'm Booking It said...

I'm really growing to like books with a split timeline like this-- seeing a person when they are young and then when they are older, moving between these viewpoints!

I really like the sound of this one, I' going to keep an eye out for it.