Roger Croft's Reviews > A Woman of Cairo

A Woman of Cairo by Noel Barber
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's review
Jul 15, 2012

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Read from May 06 to July 15, 2012

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 dealt with sympathetically but from the English-centric point of view of the major protagonists. All the main characters are very rich and have everything to lose should Nasser and his Free Officers eventually take over Egypt and launch a socialist revolution. Here was a rich opportunity for Barber, with his vast knowledge of international affairs, to write a breakthrough novel about a new nationalist era that was then dawning-- a period which despite all the international crises it spawned [France , the U.K. and Israel tried to topple Nasser in a short, futile war] raised living standards and the basic self-respect for the vast majority of Egyptians.
But Barber chose to write from the colonialist's point of view--which given his age and time, is perhaps understandable. The novel is set at a time when the 'winds of change' had hardly gathered their full strength and the West collectively [with perhaps the exception of the U.S., then under the Wilsonian administration of General Eisenhower] couldn't get to grips with a post-colonial world order. Too bad, but it was still a good read.
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