I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted to like a book more than I wanted to like Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashidi but god damn did I not love this book.
First of all, this is a novel that spans many decades and discusses several different Egyptian revolutions. The writer seemed to assume that the reader knew a hell of a lot about these revolutions because names were dropped and never explained, and places were discussed as though the reader were supposed to understand the relevance. My guess is that I know more than the average American does about Egypt and yet I was lost much of the time. I had to make a decision to just keep going with the flow and assuming the loose ends would be tied up at some point, or I would have spent more time on Wikipedia than I spent reading this book. I would forgive and understand this if it was a book written with an Egyptian audience in mind, obviously, but it wasn’t. I’ve read plenty of historical fiction that did an excellent job of balancing that challenging spot where you don’t want to bore people who do know a lot about the topic but you don’t want newbies to get lost. This was not balanced at all.
Second, the writing just wasn’t compelling. I wanted to care about these people, and I should have – some interesting / terrible / lovely things were happening to them. But I just wasn’t invested in them and after reading other reviews it seems I’m not the only one.
I would recommend this book to someone who knows a lot about and likes to read fiction about Egypt but for everyone else, I think there are better places to start.