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A Woman of Cairo

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  364 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Son and daughter of diplomats in Cairo, the gentle Serena Pasha and Mark Holt are privileged and attractive, growing up in a magical world of champagne breakfasts and midnight picnics at the pyramids. Their lives entwined since childhood, they grow ever closer as adults. Yet Serena's hand has been promised not to Mark, but to his brother, Greg. As World War IIspeeds closer ...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 1984)
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(showing 1-30 of 905)
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Haya Al-Hady
I have learned alot from this book. I truly have - I'm not just saying that. If I were to write a book review about this book I would title it Women of Cairo: Are they all Farida's?

If you have read this book you'd know who Farida - or Safinaz - is. She is the true model of a conservative Egyptian wife which also happens to be the queen of Egypt. But, the problem is Farida is oppressed by her spoiled husband - king. I believe there's a completely clear message set there in the book.

The 'woman of
Roger Croft
Noel Barber was a renowned foeign correspondent for the London Daily Mail. Perhaps he should have stayed in journalism. This novel is a sentimental tale of unrequited love, adultery and jealousy within a narrow circle of British expats in Cairo (diplomats, bankers etc.), Arab anglophiles and Egyptian nationals; the latter are quietly working behind the scenes to bring down King Farouk's corrupt regime in the early 50s.
The nationalistic cause --which eventually brought Nasser to power--is not dea
Noel Barber was a master in his craft of telling a tales of changing worlds through the lens of individuals tangled in forces of history. Years ago, I read his more famous epic of Singapore, 'Tanamera." I picked up this book (in its British edition under the title 'Sakkara') from my father's bookshelf and read through the 596 pages with continued interest. Mostly. The book tells the story of changing Egypt (where the author spent many years as foreign correspondent) from 1919 to 1953 through a f ...more
I had great expectations about this book, but unfortunately those expectations were not met. It is a very contrived tale from the outset, and whilst the author wants to cleverly intertwine the political history of Egypt from 1919 - 1952 (and it seems historically accurate) the characters, and especially the main characters, are just too clever by half and I found it difficult to believe very much of the tale. Mark Holt who tells the story, is so much a super-hero in every possible situation that ...more
Eva Thieme
I remembered this book from my early twenties and decided to re-read it now, to help with research for a possible novel set in North Africa during World War II. While it was helpful for that purpose regarding street names and locations in pre-war Cairo and reminding me of the main historical events, it was lacking in plot. There was plenty of drama, no doubt about it, but it felt contrived and forced throughout the book. And the characters… I wouldn’t say they were totally flat, as I could imagi ...more
Mar 19, 2014 Amena added it
No stars. That's how I see the book. I have to admit, it was brilliant, and engaging. The topic is catchy the splendor just lures you in. But that was just in the first 100 pages. Spanning over 650 pages and over two decades, the characters never develop, NEVER. The plot can only be described as one written be a 40-something Egyptian lady, who likes sensational gossip. The author is in the habit of reminding us with incidents (since the novel drags on till forever) he would actually let the char ...more
A fictional story in a very non-fictional era, Egypt throughout the British presence, WWII and the abdication of King Farouq.

Good points:

- It mixes a lot of history together, European / International and Egyptian, which were always in separate compartments for me. This era makes a lot more sense to me now tied together.

- Very descriptive and the author has done a good job captivating the essance of Cairo at this time through the eyes of the British main character.

Bad points:

- It's 672 pages !!!!
Kerry Hennigan
It took me a while to get through this novel by Noel Barber. As with most of his books, it's well over 500 pages in length, and spans decades, in this instance from 1919 to the post WWII years and the abdication of King Farouk.

Mark Holt grows up in privileged surroundings on the banks of the Nile next door to a wealthy native Cairene family. As a child Mark saves the life of their baby daughter, Serena, and their fates are linked from that moment on.

Part love story, part historical drama, A Woma
Sep 25, 2007 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who like historical fiction.
Randomly grabbed from a bookshelf in Borders when I was in the mood to read something I have never heard of before, and it actually worked quite well. I love epic, sweeping historical fiction about the ending of an era/death of a civilization and this met those needs. The story is set in Cairo, starting well before World War II when the British occupied the country and the Egyptians wanted to be free of this (and taking you through this time, as well as after it). The atmosphere set was fantasti ...more
It's been a long while since a book pulled me in so completely I didn't notice hours go by. A wonderfully written book about Egypt and history, giving a refreshingly different perspective to the Second World War and to a time when "...the Egyptians hated Britain but still loved the British."
Dec 05, 2013 Marianne rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction fans who like a bit of romance
Shelves: hist-fic, romance, gone
This book follows the relationship and romance of a British man and an Egyptian woman through their early childhood to mid/late adult, their relationship growing through their lives, but always turmoil brought by cultural pressures and political upheaval. Set in Cairo through riots and the second World War, ending after King Farouk, this book gives an interesting background on some of the trials Egypt has experienced.

However, I found sometimes the political and military background felt shoe-horn
I started to like this kind of books after reading this novel. I felt an emotional connecting between me and the story however it's very long in which I sometimes got bored!
Jan 28, 2014 Janet rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Janet by: Maurice Leister
Really enjoyed this book even thought it is not the sort of book that I generally read, normally read grizzly murders, but this held me and taught me a lot about Cairo during the second World War. A door stopper of a book that you can get into.
Aug 06, 2011 Mya added it
A tale of Cairo in the late 30s and early 40s. Once I'd got used to the characters, it wasn't a bad story. Nothing major happened: just traced the tales and intrigue of two families and one couple in particular. There was some commentary on what happened in Cairo over those war years and soon after and how the British were eventually ousted, however that was more to create background to the tale itself. If you enjoy books like this, it's probably worth reading. The writer certainly has a readabl ...more
Jill Chomowicz
Good historic fiction.
A love story (some detailed love scenes you can skip over) that takes place in Cairo just before WWII. The author keeps you interested while you learn about what was happening in Cairo in that time period. There was a large Nationalist movement determined to overthrow the British. The book shows you what life was like for various social groups in Egypt then.
Brenda Hawley
I found this book in a hotel gift shop in Cairo... how fitting! Thus started a quest to find Noel Barber's other books (not easy to do) but he writes of war and peace, love and hate, vast decades of strife and struggle. I learned so much about far away places and times from his books.... so fascinating and well written.
This was my second Noel Barber novel following Tanamara. It involves a similar theme, i.e., a great story of World War II Cairo, Egypt and the intermarriage of English and native families caught in the upheaval of the times in that part of the world. I also read this one about ten years ago.
Noura Shibl
I have read 125 pages so far and I think it's great.the writer is really good. he describes every thing in cairo just perfect and I love knowing more things about the history of my lovely country egypt through noel's words.
Wonderful written, looking forward to reading something else by this author. An fully boiling Egypt struggling between Brits and Germans during the WW II and normal life trying to follow its course. Nice reading for sure.
Bit of an expat bodice-ripper, actually. It was fun for me reading some historical fiction about Egypt's modern history ... although Barber has a very liberal view of the geography of Cairo!
Mikaela Nadia love always has its own funny way to develop into a perfect blossom, through good & bad times, laughters and tears, pleasure and pain....
I read 1/3 of this book, and I cannot stand to read another page. I'd much rather read a history textbook than this sappy drivel.
Monica Wehbe
Best book I've ever read. Noel Barber is a genius, I couldn't put the book down.
Mikkel Baltzer
Greatly told, rich in scenery and drama.
Tawfiq elBastaki
my love for novels started with this book ...
Very interesting story of two families in Egypt
so poooring!
Aysha is currently reading it
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Noel Barber was a British novelist and journalist. Many of his novels, considered exotic romances, as well as his works of 20th century history, are based on his first-hand experiences as leading foreign correspondent for the Daily Mail.

Most notably he reported from Morocco, where he was stabbed five times. In October 1956, Barber survived a gun shot wound to the head by a Soviet sentry in Hungar
More about Noel Barber...
Tanamera A Farewell To France The Weeping and the Laughter The Other Side Of Paradise The War of the Running Dogs: How Malaya Defeated the Communist Guerrillas 1948-1960

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“I asked father whether they led.
'Like everything else in Cairo' he said, 'Round and round in circles, to everywhere and nowhere.”
“But the Egyptian passion for violence, for killing the goose that lays the eggs- that's a different matter.” 0 likes
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