Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chronicle of a Last Summer

I had very mixed feelings about Yasmine El Rashidi's CHRONICLE OF A LAST SUMMER: A Novel of Egypt. The writing was evocative and I learned much about how a small child perceives the political landscape. She captures the confusion and heavy silences about her father's absence well. The family relationships come to life and I got a sense of what Egypt was like in 1984. Claustrophobic. Repressive.

However, I'd hoped that in Parts II and III, when the little girl is no longer little, but a young university student studying film, and then a writer examining the past, that we'd have more insight. Alas, the author continues to write observations (beautifully) without giving the historical context. I don't know much about Egyptian history so I had to study it to make sense of her book. Frankly, it felt like reading someone's thesis for a creative writing course.

I do thank Blogging for Books for a review copy. And am posting this on Amazon.

3 comments:

Mirka Breen said...

I love books that take me elsewhere, be it time or place. Sometime it is atmospheric rather than fact-laced.

marciastrykowski.com said...

Sounds interesting and well written, but thanks for the heads up about it being a bit tricky to follow.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I also enjoy being transported to another time/place and the author is a lovely writer. I think if I'd read even a little bit of Egypt's more recent history beforehand, it would've been more enjoyable. I really wanted some of the mystery demystified.

Marcia, it's not tricky to follow, rather I got a sense that everything was mysterious. Fine for a 6-yr-old, but for a 20- or 30-yr old I'd expect some reflection about what it all meant.

Because I am also working on historical fiction, I realize that my little domestic tale must somehow echo the political times, the turbulence, in a way that would make sense to a reader not familiar with that history. I've run into trouble because my 13-yr-old protagonist is self-centered and not particularly interested in politics until it affects her personally.

It's strange how you can sometimes learn more from a book that has flaws than one that is perfect.