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City of the Sun

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Espionage, love, and power play upon the shifting sands of wartime Cairo

CAIRO, EGYPT 1941. As the Second World War rages, the city known as ''Paris on the Nile'' plays host to an international set who seem more interested in polo matches and swanky nightclubs than the Germans' unrelenting advance across North Africa. Meanwhile, as refugees, soldiers, and spies stream into the city, the Nazis conspire with the emerging Muslim Brotherhood to fuel the Egyptian people's seething resentment against their British overlords.

Ambitious American journalist Mickey Connolly has come to Cairo to report on the true state of the war. Facing expulsion by the British for not playing by their rules, he accepts a deal from the U.S. embassy that allows him to remain in the country. His covert mission: to infiltrate the city's thriving Jewish community and locate a refugee nuclear scientist who could be key to America's new weapons program. But Mickey is not the only one looking for the elusive scientist. A Nazi spy is also desperate to find him--and the race is on. Into this mix an enigmatic young woman appears, a refugee herself. Her fate becomes intertwined with Mickey's, giving rise to a story of passion, entangled commitments, and half-truths.

Deftly blending the romantic noir of the classic film Casablanca with a riveting, suspenseful narrative and vivid historical detail, City of the Sun offers a stunning portrayal of a time and place that was not only pivotal for the war, but also sowed much of the turbulence in today's Middle East.

371 pages, Paperback

First published March 9, 2014

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About the author

Juliana Maio

1 book19 followers
Juliana Maio was born in Egypt but expelled from the country with her family during the Suez Crisis. She was raised in France and completed her higher education in the United States, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Berkeley, and receiving her Juris Doctor degree from UC Hastings.

Juliana practices entertainment law in Los Angeles and has represented internationally renowned and multi-award winning filmmakers as well as a host of independent production companies. Prior to that she served as vice president of worldwide corporate and business affairs for Triumph Films, a joint venture between Columbia Pictures and Gaumont Films.

Juliana co-founded Lighthouse Productions, an independent film and television company. She has spoken both domestically and abroad about the Arab Spring. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, film producer Michael Phillips. They have a daughter.

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5 stars
86 (18%)
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168 (36%)
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154 (33%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 119 reviews
Profile Image for Gabby.
204 reviews42 followers
March 26, 2014
I received an ARC of City Of The Sun By Juliana Maio from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated while he attended a parade in Egypt. So unexpected was this attack on Sadat that when the murderers climbed into the stands to kill him, he thought they were part of the show and saluted them. I stood in my kitchen watching the event unfurl on my 10-inch black and white tv screen. It was the raw footage of what was supposed to be a parade, but instead became the massacre of an Egyptian President. Sadat had been in the news frequently with Menachem Begin in their joint effort to bring peace to the Middle East. I had followed the progress they were making along with President Jimmy Carter. What I did not know was what part this region of the world had played in WWII. For some reason history classes did not cover much about North African involvement in that war. This book is part of the missing background to that story, and it involves Sadat's inclusion into the war planning and fight for control of that region because of the Suez Canal. There is a love story that takes place in the novel, but for me the book was valuable for the insight into the background and culture of people who had to live in unbelievably stressful situations. Everyone knows the story of the German Jews; such is not the case for other people who also had a Jewish heritage. In any event, I cried while I watched people in the parade viewing stands try to make sense of a chaotic situation. I believed I was watching the possibility of Peace for the Middle East crumble under the boots of assassins. That turned out to be an accurate assessment as current news headlines show us daily.

This story begins with Maya and her family waiting for their steam ship, the El Aziz, to dock into the port of Alexandria, Egypt. Maya, her father, and her brother had been assured that Jews were safe in Egypt, but there were signs of war everywhere. At the same time as Maya and her family were waiting to enter Alexandria, Mickey Connolly an American journalist is trying to stay in Egypt so he can write news stories to let Americans at home know just what the real situation is with the Germans using every means at their disposal to take over areas of North Africa not already under their control. To help them in this endeavor, they have placed a spy, Heinrich Kesner, in a houseboat under the guise of being a Polish officer trying to dodge an assignment that would have put him on the lines fighting. Kesner has managed to intercept encoded messages going to the Americans and he is using this information to track down his assignment: Maya's brother, Eric Blumenthal, because of work Eric was doing in the relatively unknown area of quantum physics. Both the Americans and the Germans want Blumenthal working for them, and it is a matter of who finds him first and brings him into this area of expertise which includes making the atomic bomb.

For me, the love story was secondary to the spy plot. How the people working undercover during that time of intense paranoia among different cultures was fascinating to me. I thought Juliana Maio did a very good job of juggling a love story that seemed doomed from the start with the life experiences of people fighting to preserve a nation from extinction. Maio includes cultural references to layer the story even further with details that were interesting and explained some of the behavior of various diverse groups which otherwise might not have made much sense. It was shocking to read how people from the same ethnic background were often forced to betray one another, making choices on who to save and who to sacrifice for the good of a few very subjective choices.

I rated this book 5 Stars for all the different levels of interest Maio brought to her story: in fact, if 10 Stars would have been an option I would have given it an 11. The history of the Jewish people from Biblical times forward has always been interesting to me, and I appreciate an author doing the research and using as much factual information as possible to tell a story with so many facets. I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction along with a good spy plot AND a love story to pull it all together.
Profile Image for Dave.
142 reviews33 followers
February 14, 2015
I enjoyed this book, however, in terms of enjoyment, it would only be worth 3 stars. I give it 4 because I came away with a new and active interest in: differences and prejudices between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews (presumably heightened by the Nazi anti-semitism); the nature of British involvement in Egypt; the possibilities, in the 1940s, of internationally assimilated jewry as opposed to the State of Israel as the universal Jewish homeland; Egyptian peoples' efforts to govern themselves in the 20th century; and the amateurish nature of the early COI/OSS. I hope to pursue all of these concepts in the near future.

As literature, despite good writing and editing it suffered a bit from a sort of literary schizophrenia. It's a pretty good spy story, but it's also soft core pornography. I believe it would have been a better novel (or novella) if the author had decided to let it go one direction or the other.

The author is heavily involved in the film industry, and it seems likely that her ultimate target was an Oscar. It seems odd to me, but this brings a notable strength to the novel: her visual descriptions are terrific. I feel I've actually seen the pyramids in all sorts of lighting, including fireworks, and Cairo's more modern architecture also plays a role. One annoying weakness that I tend to blame on the cinematic goal is that the male protagonist, an upwardly mobile working class boy from Detroit, finds himself suddenly in the company of such dramatis personae as the King of Egypt, Churchill's son, the U. S. and U. K. Ambassadors, and De Gaulle's representative in Cairo, among others. It also has a very pretty, overly theatrical, summing up.

The author provides real chronological markers throughout the story. These include the fall of Tobruk and the Wehrmacht victory at Rostov (the one near Moscow). These mentions were appropriate as they help to set the scene. One marker, however, was out of place in a couple of ways. Montgomery's assumption of command is noted as if it occurred soon after the Atlantic Charter was proclaimed and shortly before the victory at El Alamein, with no mention of such intervening events as the U. S. entry in the War, the fall of Singapore, the sinking of the Prince of Wales, etc. In fact, even the first battle of Alamein occurred while Auchinleck was still in command and nearly a year after the events of this novel. Montomery arrived nearly a month later. His victory occurred about 3 months later, after 2 months of careful preparation and 2 1/2 weeks of furious fighting.

It's a good book with some notable weaknesses. People more knowledgeable about ww2 in the Middle East or more serious about spy fiction might give it only 2 stars, but I liked it.
463 reviews2 followers
January 6, 2014
CITY OF THE SUN by Juliana Maio
This book started as a good, well thought out war time spy thriller with a little romance thrown in. Then three fourth of the way through a couple of needless hot and heavy sex scenes appeared that seemed out of character for Maya and unnecessary for the story line. Then the ending just got unbelievable. It seemed as though the author ran out of steam and did a quick and dirty ending with coincidence and unreal situations abounding.
The characters – Maya, a Jewish refugee trying to get to Palestine with her scientist brother; Mickey, an American newspaperman turned spy; Kesner, a German spy looking for the brother, and a host of minor characters - were well fleshed out with clear voices and actions. A number of historical persons and organizations played minor parts (Anwar Sadat, King Farouk, the Muslim Brotherhood) appearing realistically as needed for the plot. Cairo in 1941, festering with a desire for independence and drowning in refugees and foreign soldiers, was a great setting for the story line. It is too bad the ending was so unsatisfying.
I enjoyed the book as a whole but not the ending.
3 of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amy Lignor.
Author 10 books218 followers
December 18, 2013
War book aficionados will be very pleased with this one; however, even if you’re not a military/history buff, this in-depth story is still one of the most interesting and thrilling reads imaginable.

It’s the year 1941, and the German Army is doing its best to take over North Africa. The Afrika Korps, headed by General Rommel, has Cairo on the ropes. Great Britain is trying its best to keep control of the country and its ultimate prize; the Suez Canal. And Farouk, King of Egypt, doesn’t know what to do to save his land.

Walking into this Cairo mess is a refugee Jewish family by the name of Blumenthal, and their arrival coincides with the appearance of American reporter, Mickey Connolly. Mickey is having problems of his own. The British have made sure his press credentials remain expired because he didn’t exactly give them positive press, and he’s about to be sent back to America. Mickey came to Cairo to land a story of monumental proportions, and his future reporting career depends on him doing just that.

As luck would have it, the U.S. Ambassador offers Mickey a deal; the Ambassador will intercede on his behalf if Mickey will go undercover and find Erik Blumenthal, a brilliant physicist who’s known to be hiding somewhere in Cairo. America wants this man to work on their side of the fence to develop weapons that will allow them to destroy the Nazis.

Seeing light at the end of his tunnel Mickey takes the job, but finds it’s not all that easy to go up against the brutal Nazis who are also searching for the much-wanted genius. Add in a daughter, Maya Blumenthal, and you have a book that provides history, suspense, spies and, of course, a great romance.

Driven by fascinating characters, this author weaves an amazing tale based on real historical figures. Cairo in the early days of the North African campaigns definitely produced people you love to hate. Well done!

(Amy Lignor for Suspense Magazine)
Profile Image for The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane).
156 reviews11 followers
March 30, 2014
Juliana Maio has written an impressive debt novel. She is a natural story teller.

Set in Cairo, Egypt in 1941 with WWII in full swing. There was a thriving Jewish community in Cairo and it became a common destination for Jews escaping the Fascist regimes of Europe. Egypt looking to free themselves from British domination formed close ties with the Nazi's. The Nazi's where funding militant nationalistic societies using them to promote antisemitism in Cairo.

Set against this backdrop Maio weaves a tale of romance, intrigue, deception. I enjoyed this book but felt that the affair between Maya and Mickey overshadowed the story. The story is the an emerging Egypt looking to free itself from the British, the Nazi's fueling a growing Egyptian nationalism with propaganda about both the Jews and British. The politics of the time became the backdrop where I would have enjoyed the story more if the politics were in the forefront with the romance in the background.

The Jews have a long history in Egypt, the onset of WWII was the beginning of the end for them. During WWII there were 80,000 Jews in Cairo, today there are less than 40. I look forward to this author bringing us more of the Jews in Egypt.
Profile Image for Vicki Jaeger.
854 reviews3 followers
March 20, 2014
A very interesting piece of World War II history that I hadn't read about until now. I didn't realize there were over 80,000 Jews living in Egypt at the beginning of the war, many of them born and raised in Egypt. This story follows a family who has escaped persecution in Europe, and is temporarily living with acquaintances while attempting to find a permanent home in the world. I had forgotten all about the battles going on in that region between Germany and the Allies, and really Germany was winning due to superior equipment and appealing to the growing Muslim sense of resentment regarding the Jews. This book takes historical events, many actual people from the time period, and humanizes the story through the eyes of a young woman. A great read, interesting characters, and some history absorbed along the way.
Profile Image for Dan.
406 reviews14 followers
January 12, 2014
I received this Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the Bookbrowse Early Review Program.
This is the first book written by the author, and it is a page-turner. It is fast-paced and the story put me right next to the characters in WWII war-torn Cairo.
The story is about war, and spies, and Jews living in Egypt,and if that's not enough, it's also a love story.
I would definitely read anything else this author would write; she is really good, and I highly recommend this to any History buff. 4 stars
461 reviews6 followers
May 1, 2014
Wow! An incredible historical fiction novel about Jews in Egypt during the beginning of World War II. This book incorporates details of the beauty of Cairo, the rise of the Muslim brotherhood, the British and American influences in Egypt during this difficult time and the lives of Jews in living and thriving in Egypt. It was enlightening, difficult and spell-binding, with intrigue, love scenes, spies, mystery, suspense and history of the time. Loved it!
Profile Image for Shaun.
Author 6 books46 followers
January 28, 2014
I was really hoping I'd win this book in the goodreads giveaway, and luck was on my side! I like history, military history, and have an interest in Egypt, so I was happy I won a copy. I think the setting is particularly riveting, and it seems like an area (Egypt in WW2, most especially Jewish history) has been very neglected. A German Jewish scientist arrives in Egypt, and is quickly sought after by German and American spies. All of this creates the potential for a very intriguing book dealing with religion, history, politics, war, and spy-craft, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

In a large part, I think the sensational plot sort of interferes with the history of Jews in Egypt during this time. In other words, the book focuses a little more on the spy v. spy, and the romantic interest of the two main characters, so I think this is a little more of a raucous action/romance book than a heart-wrenching tale of the human spirit. To compare it to movies, it's a little more like Enemy at the Gates than it is to Schindler's List. That's what I mean about the book being a little more action/romance, and a little less tale of the human spirit. That doesn't detract from the book itself, but I think if the author was primarily trying to tell the story of the Jews in Egypt in this era greatly ignored by historians and novelists, I think she would've been better served by NOT having as much action/romance. To her credit though, the book does have many descriptions of clothing, customs, and how the various cultures, France prime among them, played into the diversity of life in Egypt. I was also intrigued by the description of the various Jewish clans, particularly how a character viewed one of the clans as poorly-mannered.

I like how the author includes some historical figures into the book. This helps the believability of the book in a large way, and also makes me wonder what parts, and which characters, are based on real people, and which are the inventions of the author. At the end of the book, the author does tell which characters are historical, and where she deviated from the historical record to make the book more concise. So that's all good.

As far as the writing itself (not the story), the chapters were all a proper length, I only recall one very short chapter and one fairly long one, the bulk are roughly six pages. The descriptions are all pretty well done, the author doesn't seem to become repetitive or run out of words to use.

This is the author's debut novel, so I say it was very well done for a debut novel. I think it was well researched and the author put a lot of thought into what she wanted the readers to know about this time in Egypt.
Profile Image for Kim.
446 reviews
March 27, 2014
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was an impressive debut novel. I love historical fiction and I thought the idea of Egypt during early WWII was quite intriguing. We meet Maya and Mickey, a Jewish refugee from Germany stopping on her way to find sanctuary with her family and Mickey a new journalist looking for the story that will make his career. I really enjoyed Maya. I felt she had just the right amount of rebellion in her well-guarded heart after all she had been through. There were only a couple points I felt she went out of character and that threw me. I didn't really love Mickey or hate him. He was just there. I did love how Egypt was brought to life at the time and how real historical figures were used. I also enjoyed how at the end, the author told which characters were based on real figures and which were fiction. I definitely learned another side to WWII I didn't know much about. There was a lot of description and quite a bit going on, so it wasn't a quick easy read, but it was done well.

The two sex scenes in the book really threw me. There was a flow and the writing was done well, I enjoyed the description, but the sex scenes just didn't really add to the story. I didn't really get the first one at all, it just was kind of there. The second, I get the throw caution to the wind moment she was trying to establish with Mickey right before she left but I just felt it was too much, or perhaps too descriptive? I felt that if there was going to be a sex scene it should have glazed over it more because of her personality, it just didn't feel right. Almost like it was thrown in just to throw it in, it didn't really add to the story.

The ending felt sort of rushed to me. I enjoyed how things worked out in some ways, but others seemed hastily wrapped. Considering this is a debut novel I am really impressed. I will definitely be watching the author in the future.
922 reviews21 followers
August 8, 2015
I requested this book from NetGalley because it is based on my two favorite reading topis -- the Middle East and Judaism. It is wartime Cairo, 1941. There is a mix of refugees, British soldiers, and spies in Cairo at this time. The Nazis are moving toward northern Africa. Hitler is becoming a bedfellow with the Muslim Brotherhood. Mickey Connolly is in Cairo to report on the current status of the war. However, he is secretly trying to get information on a refugee nuclear scientist (Eric Blumenthal). America wants to build the "big bomb" and Blumenthal could be the key to making that happen. The Nazis are also looking for him. There's romance when Connolly becomes involved with Maya, who unknown to him is Blumenthal's sister. Maio writes the story in such a way that I could easily visualize like in Cairo at that time. Most people are not aware of the intricacies of life in places like Cairo and Istanbul during this time period. There's the elaborate parties, the espionage, the sense of constant danger. Maio captured the atmosphere and made it real for me.
Profile Image for Terri.
315 reviews
March 8, 2014
City of the Sun is set in Cairo, Egypt during the height of World War II and follows Maya Blumenthal, a Jewish refugee and her surviving family as they try to escape the Nazi war machine. Her brother, Erik is a brilliant scientist whose paper on the possibility of a bomb that harnesses the power of atomic energy has gathered interest from both the Axis and Allied leaders and has them the unwitting subjects of a covert manhunt for both sides. Mickey Connolly is a young American freelance journalist who is contacted by the US embassy to help track Erik Blumenthal down.

This story is rich with historical figures during the second world war, it has intrigue with a dash of romance to make it an interesting and thrilling read. I would absolutely recommend this book!
Profile Image for Jay Williams.
1,681 reviews18 followers
March 8, 2014
All the ingredients for an outstanding Blockbuster: romance, intrigue, deception, exotic locale, historical accuracy, a cast of loveable and hateful characters, and a climate of tension. The story was fantastic. It was so well-written I envisioned the action in my mind as though I was seeing a film. Set against a backdrop of early WWII, the action follows the trials of the Jews, both indigenous and displaced, in the city of Cairo. The wise-cracking American Reporter is drawn into spying, and unknowingly falls in love with the sister of the man he is searching for. The tension grows and the action is terrifying as the story unfolds. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a story so engrossing they cannot stop for air.
1 review
August 5, 2016
CITY OF THE SUN is a tour de force well-deserving of the praise-filled quotes on both its back cover and inside pages. A unique page-turner, it is replete with intrigue and emotionality within the context of the very real yet rarely explored complexities of life in Cairo in 1941. A work of historical fiction which sheds light on the underpinnings of many of today's worldwide political dynamics, it is also very cinematic, exotic and suspenseful. I will be first in line to see it when it becomes a major motion picture!
Profile Image for Trisha.
60 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2014
I love historical fiction about WW2 so I was excited to read this about what was going on in Egypt and all the European Jews who would arrive there. The book kept me entertained and I learned about Egypt which is not something people usually learn about when discussing WW2. My only issue with the story was the ending. I was not a fan of how it ended.
Profile Image for Diana.
723 reviews23 followers
April 9, 2014
Author Interview at: booknerdloleotodo.blogspot.com

I thought this was a perfect blend of historical information with a perfect twist of suspense. I loved the message behind the story and it made me want to learn more about the history of this area. I will be looking forward to more books by Ms Maio!
Profile Image for Jill Sulak.
5 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2014
A great read! "City of the Sun" is set in WW2 Egypt, and while this is not my typical genre, I found myself engrossed in this story. I am fascinated by Jewish culture and this book opened a door to a facet of that culture that I had never considered. This book really has it all - espionage, suspense, romance - and all wrapped up with a healthy dose of rarely explored history.
356 reviews2 followers
March 12, 2014
City of the Sun takes place in Cairo Egypt in 1941 during World War II. It is the type of historical fiction that I really enjoy reading a book that has both well drawn characters and a plot that makes you to keep reading till y I will look forward to reading more books by Juliana Maio. Read as a netgalley copy.
Profile Image for Anna.
389 reviews28 followers
April 2, 2014
The scene of Cairo in 1941 was atmospheric and well presented in this book and it’s exoticism was well portrayed. It was obvious that the author has spent time there as her descriptions appeared accurate. I do not know a lot about the situation in Egypt during the war and I enjoyed learning more about this in this easy to read novel.

My full review is at www.leftontheshelfbookblog.blogspot.c...
Profile Image for Maureen Tumenas.
608 reviews7 followers
February 17, 2014
A well written historical novel exploring the Jews of Cairo in the midst of WWII. Characters are compelling and believable. A different point of view than is typically taken when examining the problems Jews faced at that time. I did not know much about Egyptian Jews before reading this.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,305 reviews103 followers
March 28, 2019
With its reputation as the Paris on the Nile, 1941 Cairo is a city teeming with refugees, soldiers and spies of various nationalities as the high society parties the nights away and German troops continue their advance across North Africa. Amidst all of this, American journalist Mickey Connolly is recruited by the fledgling US spy service to help track down a Jewish scientist recently arrived in the city whose research is believed to be vital to furthering America's attempts to develop a nuclear bomb. A Nazi spy seeks the same quarry, but the man proves elusive to both. Meanwhile, Mickey makes the acquaintance of a young woman he finds himself deeply attracted to but who appears to be keeping secrets of her own.

Engaging, atmospheric and rife with historic detail, this was a very promising debut novel. The sex scenes seemed rather unnecessary, but otherwise I enjoyed this book very much.
Profile Image for Mark Watkins.
131 reviews8 followers
Read
February 16, 2014
It's 1941 and Rommel's Afrika Corps are bearing down on Cairo. The city is on edge, some of them hoping the Nazis will expel the British who control Egypt, others anxiously waiting for the Allies to stop their advance. Mickey Connelly is an intrepid young reporter out to make his mark in war-time Cairo. Maya is a Jewish refugee, come to Cairo with her father and brother Erik, who happens to be a nuclear scientist in hiding and being sought by the Germans and the British. Mickey is co-opted by the American embassy and the seeds of what will become the American intelligence community to find Erik. He becomes enamored of Maya, not knowing that Erik is her brother.

City of the Sun by Juliana Maio is set in WWII-era Cairo and features a wide variety of intriguing and historical characters and organizations. Maio's painstaking research into the history of Cairo during World War II shines through, and in particular the history of the Jews in Cairo (during the war, hundreds of thousands of Jews made their home their). We see the fledgling Muslim Brotherhood taking root and trying to expel the British. We see a young Anwar Sadat, somewhat unwillingly aligning himself with the Brotherhood in order to reclaim Egypt. Those of us who know Sadat from his Nobel Peace Prize and peace with Israel will be surprised to see him collaborating with the Nazis in order to expel the British. A variety of other historical characters make their appearance, including Wild Bill Donovan, the father of the OSS and eventually the CIA, and King Farouk, the boy king of Egypt.

The hunt for Erik and the budding romance between Mickey and Maya are enjoyable and move the novel forward quickly. But it's clear the real star of City of the Sun is Cairo itself, painted in atmospheric and nostalgic colors. For example, Mickey attends a party at the swanky and cosmopolitan Continental Hotel, and:

He stepped out of the elevator and stood breathless at the sight of the colonial Eden in front of him. The rooftop had been converted into a garden lush with foliage, where guests dined at immaculately set white-linen draped tables. The sun was setting over the many domes and minarets of the city's medieval district, illuminating Al Azhar, the grandest mosque of them all, with a halo and bathing the terrace in an orange glow. Waiters drifted by carrying martinis and platters of hors d'oeuvres accompanied by the soft sound of a flute being played in some unseen corner, while suffragis scurried to light the candies that adorned each table. As the sky darkened, hundreds of fairy lights entwined in the foliage sprang to life, providing a chorus of "Ahhs" from the admiring guests. Mickey joined them, transported to another world - a glamorous, exotic oasis far away from the harsh reality of the war.

City of the Sun is great fun and a wonderful introduction to the history of Cairo and the early formation of today's modern Egypt, and the history of the Jews in Egypt at that time. In tone, the book veers towards a historical romance - Mickey and Maya are adorable, although as characters they have no real flaws that move the plot. This is a solid first novel from Maio and I'd look forward to reading more. I'd welcome more conflict arising from character flaws of the protagonists. In contrast, I was also reading at the same time another WWII-era book, All That Is by James Salter. While it's more than a little unfair to compare Maio's first work to a grand master like Salter, the prose in All That Is effortlessly renders Philip Bowman, complete with all his flaws that drive him forward.

City of the Sun is a quick, effortless read and will be enjoyed by those interested in history, particularly of Cairo and Egypt during the war, or by those looking for a fun, historical romance. If Indiana Jones adventures or Casablanca appeal to you, you'll love City of the Sun.
Profile Image for Holly.
391 reviews
April 15, 2014
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. It's described as a "Casablanca"-style WWII mystery/thriller, set in Cairo. The reason I was initially concerned is that I don't like the movie "Casablanca" all that much. This book was a lot better, which made me happy.

Set in the early days of WWII, the story revolves around several groups of characters with competing and conflicting interests. The Germans, led by Rommel, are pushing their way through North Africa, and spying on the Egyptians and Allies alike. The British are fighting to stop the German advance and retain their control of the Egyptian colony. The Americans are fighting a secret war, having not yet formally entered WWII. The Egyptian people are divided - some are happy with the status quo, others are agitating for independence from the British. Even the Jewish community in Egypt is divided over the issue of creating a Jewish state in Palestine.

Against this backdrop, we get a love story, mystery, espionage, murder, and family drama. The story is tightly woven and as a result is a very fast read. The main characters are Mickey Connolly, an American reporter, and Maya, a German Jew on the run from the Nazis with her brother and father. Mickey's journalism career isn't going too well, but as luck would have it, he's enlisted by the American embassy and "Wild" Bill Donovan in an early forerunner of the CIA. He's tasked with finding a scientist, Erik Blumenthal, before the Germans do. Erik just happens to be Maya's brother. Mickey meets Maya by chance, and they fall for each other. Meanwhile, the Nazis have tasked their spy in Cairo with finding Erik as well. It's a race to see who can find him first.

All of the characters are well written and interesting, even though the supporting characters steal the show at certain points. Even though the historical timeline has been compressed, it doesn't take away from the narrative. The North Africa campaigns are a part of WWII that's largely overlooked, which is a shame, because it's very interesting history. You learn a lot about the Jewish community in Egypt pre-WWII and the origins of the Jewish/Arab friction that persists today. I also enjoyed reading about Cairo and Egypt after vacationing there several years ago. The descriptions are so interesting to compare to modern Cairo, since some things have changed so much, while others are exactly the same.

The only nit-picks I had were very personal and very nit-picky, so I will admit that right up front. Throughout the book, the author talks about "marines" at the American embassy and other official functions. Even though it's technically grammatically correct to use the lower case "m", anyone who has been a Marine or knows a Marine will tell you the "M" should always, always, always be capitalized. Always. (The New York Times corrected their policy in 2009). The other issue was the scene at the film premier toward the end of the book where the Marines are described as wearing red, white, and blue top hats - no. Assuming they were in uniform (how else would you know they were Marines and not civilian staff?), Marines never wear anything but the regulation cover for the uniform, and only outdoors. Marines don't wear covers inside. That just would. not. happen. Ever. Like I said, I know it's nit-picky and I'm probably one of a small minority of people that would even notice these two things, but it bugged me all the same.

Overall, this was a really good book and a fast read. If you're interested in WWII, spy novels or historical fiction, you should definitely pick this up.
Profile Image for Kathy Cowie.
817 reviews20 followers
June 6, 2014
I have read a lot of terrific World War II novels. Most of them have been strong, historically accurate stories of war-ravaged people and the lands they loved and lost. I have also read some stunning duds, with unbelievably inappropriate romances that take place between, say, a Nazi and the lovely lady next door. Since I am one of those people who have trouble completely giving up on a book before I’ve finished it, (no matter how ridiculous) this was hard. But I’m more careful now. I stopped reading any WWII books for a while, and then I decided I would only read books that approached the time period from a new perspective.

So when NetGalley posted City of the Sun, I checked it out. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a book set in Cairo, let alone Cairo, 1941. (think Casablanca) I had no idea that people fled Europe to Cairo, or that there was such a large, comfortable Jewish population there. I felt ignorant when I began to see a whole aspect of the war I was not familiar with – the war fought in North Africa by Rommel, and the power struggle that was taking place in Cairo as the Nazis marched toward the city.

The book intertwines a number of invented characters with the real inhabitants of the city (King Farouk, the British Ambassador, etc.), which helps with credibility when the novel drifts a little too far into romance. Thankfully, the author seems much more comfortable dealing with science and spies than with sex; which was good, as the romance seemed at best, improbable.

City of the Sun, as its title implies, is all about the city. The true hero of this story is not the sweet Jewish girl, or the nuclear scientist, or the daring American reporter, or even the desperate Nazi spy. It is Cairo: lovingly described in its splendor and its shambles. It is a city on the edge, and you will keep reading because you will come to love it, and you will care about what happens to it. And the rest of them? Don’t even worry about them; they’ll be just fine.
62 reviews
August 10, 2016
The book is set during World War II in Cairo, Egypt and tells the story of a young Jewish woman named Maya and her family who are escaping Jewish persecution, struggling to find a place to call home where they will be safe. Simultaneously, an American reporter named Mickey, ends up working for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo as a spy for a very specific mission. Maya & Mickey’s paths cross and are woven together throughout the duration of the story.

This was a very well-written book filled with mystery, romance, misdirection, and intrigue. It was an exciting read that had my attention up until the very end. There were a couple twists that I thought were great and overall just really enjoyed this book. There were several really likeable characters and I loved reading the descriptions of Cairo in the early 1940’s. I found it really interesting to read a story about the War told from a different point of view than the norm. I really got into the author’s style of writing. It flowed nicely and was very easy to read. Also, it appeared to me that the author was very knowledgeable on what she was writing.

Instead of 5 stars, I decided to give the book 4 stars only because there were 3 graphic sex scenes in the book. I felt they were not necessary and I’m just not into reading that sort of thing. So I just skipped over them. However, this is merely personal preference and as stated above, I felt that this book was a really great read overall.

This is an exciting, fun novel from Juliana Maio and I would definitely read more by this author. She’s very talented and I look forward to more novels by her!
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31 reviews1 follower
March 12, 2014
“City of the Sun” is an interesting title for a story that touches on some of the darkest moments in Middle Eastern history during WWII. A multi-cultural romance plays out on the back drop of 1941 Cairo where the Germans are conquering their way through Africa toward the city, and many historical figures play out their roles to make this happen or not. The city’s Jewish community that thrives alongside Egypt’s Arab majority closes a blind eye to the fact that they are being sold out to the Germans so that the Arabs, lead by Sadat, can create a free Egypt or the Muslim Brotherhood can assume total control. At the same time the British and American’s want the scientists capable of creating an Atom Bomb that could stop Germany once and for all. One of these scientists has escaped to Cairo on his way to Palestine to join the budding Zionist movement there. Who’s going to get their hands on the scientist before he escapes from Cairo, The Nazi spy or the American journalist/spy? The romance heats up as the reader and the two spies when they realize the scientist is the brother of the American’s girlfriend. A well-done historical romance that focuses on the history of many of the issues Egypt faces today.
628 reviews10 followers
September 13, 2016
For lovers of historical fiction, Juliana Maio's City of the Sun brings to life WWII set in Egypt. There are so many books and spy novels set in Germany, that its refreshing to see the same time period brought to life in a different, but equally important locale.

Set in Cairo in 1941, we meet aspring journalist Mickey Connelly. Mickey writes stories that he can't get anyone to publish or pay attention to. The British aren't happy with him and want to throw him out, but after a meeting with Bill Donovan, Mickey becomes a spy for the OSS, tasked with finding a Jewish scientist that the Americans want to help with the building of the bomb that will end the war.

At the same time, we meet the scientist's family, including his sister Maya. We follow the two story lines as Mickey and Maya meet. Maya's family wants nothing more than to get to Israel but can't get the approval from the British to do so; the American's want Maya's brother to come to America and help with the war effort, and of course there is a Nazi spy also tracking down the scientist for Germany's bomb program. Mickey and Maya fall in love, not realizing who the other really is. Where will it all end?

The book is well written, suspenseful, and full of twists and turns; a truly delectable debut novel
Profile Image for Linda Wright.
Author 2 books3 followers
March 21, 2014
World War II is raging throughout Europe, but for Detroit Free Press journalist, Mickey Connelly, the story is in Egypt. Maya is a Jewish refugee who ends up in Cairo as a stop on the way to freedom for her and her family. Their chance meeting sets this novel in motion.

Lately, I've been reading alot of historical novels. I'm enthralled by stories of the World Wars. The setting in Africa is a fresh approach and it's a part of history I was not familiar with. All good things.

City of the Sun has the everything, romance, intrigue, murder all in an exotic setting. The novel is well paced and I never became bored but some parts I enjoyed more than others. The ending left me unsatisfied. When I thought about why I felt this way, I realized the author never decided if this was to be a historical novel, a romance or a spy thriller. Although the novel has merit, it never found its true focus. As a reader I never found that warm and fuzzy feeling I long to have inside a good book.
3 reviews2 followers
September 7, 2016
Bringing back memories of Leon Uris’ Mila 18, Juliana Maio, in City of the Sun, has written a book that takes one to a place and time not necessarily known and drawn a rich canvas of people and imagery that allows the reader to become immersed in that milieu. Cairo has always been an exotic place; now in the novel it comes alive and brings one into a world that no longer exists. I wish I had been there. The characters, real and fictional convey the urgency and passion of living in a war zone along with the romanticism that exists when portraying WWII. This is always a war that resonates with the reader because it was, and will always be, a war that encompassed every soul on Earth and affected all. Having read historical fiction extensively, Maio takes me to a place that I knew very little about and makes it compelling. This joins the ranks of historical fiction to be read and savored by anyone interested in a facet of WWII that pertains to the Middle East.
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