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3.56  ·  Rating details ·  657 ratings  ·  113 reviews
Frustrated by country life and eager for adventure and excitement, eighteen-year-old Tom Button moves to the city to study. Once there, and living in a run-down apartment block called Cairo, he is befriended by an eccentric musician Max Cheever, his beautiful wife Sally, and their close-knit circle of painters and poets.

Tom is delighted at his new life, but his charismati
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2013 by Scribe Publications (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  657 ratings  ·  113 reviews

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Oct 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I was looking forward to reading Chris Wormersley's novel Cairo, as someone who has grown up in Melbourne, remembers the theft of Picasso's Weeping Woman from the National Gallery, and travels past the alluring Cairo apartments every day on the tram. But right from the outset, something just didn't work for me, and it became increasingly annoying, at least until the halfway point, where the plot picks up pace. The thing that rankled was the voice. Why did this description of Melbourne in the 198 ...more
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On one side of the large, busy road were the Carlton Gardens with their tennis courts and stately avenues of elm trees. On the other side, almost hidden behind a hedge and an overgrown peppercorn tree, was the apartment block with its name spelled out in white metal lettering affixed to one of its red-brick walls: Cairo.

This is our introduction to the Fitzroy apartment block where 17yo country boy, Tom Button, comes to live in the summer of 1986. There he meets a large cast of eclectic character
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian
This is my first experience reading Chris Womersley and I'm very impressed. Cairo is a wonderful evocation of Melbourne in the 1980s.

Womersley constructs beautiful sentences to tell this well structured story of some of the inhabitants in the Cairo apartment building in Fitzroy during the time of the theft of Picasso's 'Weeping Woman' from the NGV.

I thought the protagonist, Tom, was a wonderfully drawn angst ridden eighteen year old, escaping a dull country town and finding love amongst a group
Nov 28, 2013 rated it liked it
I love a book about yearning. I love a book about the humiliations or missed opportunities of one’s youth. What does this say about me?
When I was 17, a similar age to the protagonist of this book, I felt like the world was alive with possibilities. I remember my post-school summer more vividly than most others. “The world is your oyster” took the form of days on the beach, a dalliance with a guy who surfed, music, skivving off in a Kombi to wild shorelines or parties, my HSC results, a place at
Amanda B
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've just finished reading this, and am already looking for something to fill the void left by Cairo - I loved it! Having been born in the same year as the author, and starting at Melbourne Uni at the same time as Tom Button was due to commence, there was much about this novel that made me yearn for days long since passed. Like some other reviewers I too felt that the novel didn't immediately establish Melbourne in the 1980s - at times I felt like Tom was hanging out with the Bloomsbury Set - bu ...more
The novel is a coming of age story set in 1980s Melbourne (Australia). When Tom Button leaves his small town home to live in a city apartment block (named Cairo), it's to fulfill his dream of broadening his mind, traveling the world and becoming a famous novelist. Tom falls in with a group of young bohemian artists who seem to offer him exactly this. The story is set against the background of a real and unsolved crime - the theft and return of Picasso's Weeping Woman from the Victoria Gallery in ...more
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked this book though it did not bowl me over. I remember the great public fuss made when Picasso's Weeping Woman was stolen from the National Gallery of Victoria. This historical event creates the narrative drive of the story. Overwhelmingly the main theme is the coming of age of a naive, gauche country boy, Tom, who does not belong in his home town of Dunley, in country Victoria, because of his intellectual and artistic interests. Unusual circumstances find him at the age of 17 living alone ...more
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-copy, australian
Interesting book, based around a true incident that occurred at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

The writing style took a while to get used to, but once I was used to it, the story was an easy read. Character development was a bit stunted, though sufficient for the story - it would have been interesting to know the back story of more of the protagonists.

The reason I have given four stars is for the evocation of Melbourne in the 1980's, the weaving in of the real life events and the f
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
While I enjoyed this novel, mostly, the setting of the 1980s just didn't ring true for me, I'm not sure why. It just didn't quite seem right, it seemed more 1960s.

I found it really shit that in order to demonstrate how annoying and spoilt Eve was we learn that she was extended breastfed. C'mon that's a pathetic connection!! I just about threw the book across the room at that one. Extended breastfeeding is a good thing, not disgusting. gah.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was most intriguing and compelling to read. With most Australian novels I love the familiarity I feel when reading them. Add the memorable theft of a Picasso from Melbourne National Gallery and a few interesting characters and I was hooked to the end.
Sharon Lee
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was bored with this book. One dimensional cliched bohemian characters and no surprises.
Julie Cohen
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2017
I thought I would enjoy this more. A pretty good yarn. Lots of Melbourne references and an intriguing take on a well known story from my childhood. It just didn't capture me like the excellent 'Bereft' did. Probably a 3.5 star book.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: c21st, 13review
Cairo is a most interesting departure for Melbourne author Chris Womersley. In Bereft (see my review) he fashioned a bewitching novel in Australian Gothic; in Cairo he has fictionalised one of Melbourne’s most notorious art heists. I predict that the book will show up in any number of shortlists…

The central character, Tom Button – 17 years old in 1986 – is looking back as an older but wiser man, on his Year of Living Dangerously. As an adolescent, he was a misfit in Dunley, a country town which
While I enjoyed Cairo, there was always something that irritated me & therefore affected my interest from the beginning. That something was the narrator Tom's voice. Tom Button is a 17 year old growing up in the 1980s. In Cairo he has just left the stifling atmosphere of country town Victoria to live in Melbourne, to attend university & live alone in his Aunt's old apartment in the Cairo complex after she has passed away. It's the 1980s, post punk, arts scene. But I just don't buy Tom Bu ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written novel. Chris Womersley has a way of drawing the reader into his story with an ease that is lacking in other novels. He engages the senses when describing a scene.
'I dream of Cairo still. The dreams are so vivid that, on occasion, I wake sweating, disoriented, expecting to see honeyed light glancing off the floorboards and curlicues of dust pirouetting lazily through the morning air; to smell sweet, stale smoke and the tang of vetiver cologne; to hear the grumble of trams,
Estela Anders
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Another book club selection. I have to admit I was quite excited to be reading a book set in Melbourne, as it has been my home for almost 20 years now. The first half of the book was quite tedious, nothing really happens and the main character is not believable -a 17 year old country boy in a big city he was not, but he was meant to be. While I was not in Australia in the 80's I'd bet anything it was not as it was described in the book, which had much more of a 1920's feel, so that kept distract ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
I got a nice little buzz from reading about such familiar locations in Womersley's novel set in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy in 1986. The apartment building Cairo that provides the setting is located right around the corner from where I lived when I first moved to Melbourne. Fitzroy had changed a bit by 1998 when I lived there, but the setting still resonated strongly. Womersley's young narrator gets mixed up with a bohemian crew and he draws on the real events surrounding the theft of Picass ...more
Sep 28, 2013 added it
Shelves: australian
This is a great story, one that deserves telling, and Chris has done a good job getting it out there. The pacing is good, and i read the whole thing in a weekend. But I was often stopped cold by the writing style, which seemed overly pompous and cliched. Was it on purpose? And I was disappointed how little it seemed to take place in the 80s: it's as though all Australian coming-of-age stories have to have a late 1950s/early 60s feel, even if they're happening in the 1980s. I thought this was a p ...more
Michael Livingston
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Entertaining, with the special bonus that comes from reading something set in neighbourhoods you know well. The characters are fairly generic - the country kid outcast who falls in with an older, bohemian (and essentially untrustworthy) gang, The older, beautiful (and unavailable) woman, the heroin using artists etc etc. It's a thrilling story (based on real events), nicely told, but it's not hugely memorable.
Nicole Sabbadin
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Can I give an extra half star? There's a lot of merit in this novel, where the author has evoked a Melbourne that's more like Paris in the 1930s than ocker Oz. I did find the continous portent by the narrator a little tiresome, and there's a lot of recount, but it's a novel of merit from an excellent writer. He used the bare facts of the case in an imaginative way. would have liked to see more done with his perception of max, but still quite good.
Claire Preston
Sep 30, 2016 rated it liked it
A good read set around Melbourne with lots of local references. A young boy from the country comes of age and learns that you can't always have what you want. Some nice twists along the way to keep the reader interested.
Apr 11, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5 I enjoyed the references to Melbourne in the mid 1980s - brought back many memories. But I found many aspects of the plot really silly and unbelievable. A quick and easy read.
Caroline Lewin
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wonderful character development,
nostalgic reading
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
2.5 out of 5.
Who doesn't want to run away to a big city, experience wonders which never exist in country towns (or small cities)? The setting : 1980s Melbourne, more like 1920s european cities.
Teens naturally desire to escape and experience adventure and excitement from tedium. This teenager became swept up in excitement and 'sophistication' of a vacuous and self-serving lot of neighbours, carried along by them seemingly out of friendship but n fact they recruit him .... he had a car ! Now the
Clare Rhoden
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-read-2017
My actual rating is a 2.5.
although this isn't the type of book I normally read, there were moments where the characters were enjoyable. The writing was catching and the way Chris described certain moments was very imaginative causing me to think differently to how I normally would.

This said it took me a bit to get into and even then I never felt the tenseness I should of felt when reading certain scenes. The characters were very enjoyable and I could even relate them to people I know.
All in all
Sue Jones-Parry
Jul 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book felt like a train wreck from the start. I did not find any of the characters endearing and the plot was slow and tedious. I felt I knew everything that was about to happen. Did not enjoy it at all, slow, monotonous, unsurprising. Only finished it because I am not good at leaving things unfinished but took me 3 weeks to read. Had to force myself to read at least a chapter a light. I regret the time lost to this book
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, but admittedly it's partly because it triggered such strong nostalgia for my own time being an 18 year old at Melbourne Uni (around where the book is set) and spending time in that area, trying to be "adult" and "cool" and "arty" as the protagonist in this story does.

It's a "coming of age" story, but interesting and a bit different with a twist at the end. In some parts the characters are painfully infuriating but in a familiar way that makes the story seem real.
Rachel Bookish
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable read. Lots of cultural references from 1986, Melbourne. Great story and characters.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
Loved the setting and found the characters interesting...
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Chris Womersley (born 1968 in Melbourne, Victoria) is an Australian author of crime fiction, short stories and poetry. He trained as a radio journalist and has travelled extensively to such places as India, South-East Asia, South America, North America, and West Africa.[1] He currently lives in Melbourne, VIC.

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“I know how tragic it can be to fall for the wrong person. The pain that person can inflict on you when you imagine what it would be like to be with them, the ways you could complement each other. The future you might have together.” 0 likes
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