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The City Always Wins

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  670 ratings  ·  113 reviews
A debut novel that captures the experience of the Egyptian revolution like no news report could

The City Always Wins is a novel from the front line of a revolution. Deeply enmeshed in the 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square, Mariam and Khalil move through Cairo’s surging streets and roiling political underground, their lives burning with purpose, their city alive in open revolt,
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by MCD
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Julian Edge Hi Jon, You are not alone in following the narrative, or wishing to understand what is happening in Egypt, a country I have lived in for some years. I…moreHi Jon, You are not alone in following the narrative, or wishing to understand what is happening in Egypt, a country I have lived in for some years. I think it's perhaps a little early to declare the novel a classic of literature, though I certainly admire it. My question was about the upshot of the experience-as-related for activists, if they/we 'are trapped in an Escher painting' (p.287). If the question is interesting, please see my review.(less)

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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  670 ratings  ·  113 reviews

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Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Contemporary and literary fiction readers, diverse interest or interest in Arab world
Shelves: 2017-reads
History changes as invisibly as the future, though more painfully in having tasted what is lost.

The City Always Wins is astonishing, intelligent throughout and alternately inspiring and saddening, a novel of the Egyptian Arab Spring that covers the macro tides and currents of the movement's development while also painting a beautiful micro narrative of two young people swept up in the wave. It recounts and reflects on the difficult relationship between revolution and democracy; chaos and gov
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Sometimes you appreciate a novel more than you enjoy reading it. The City Always Wins is important and well written, but it didn't always work for me. I'm still giving it 4 stars for its strengths. The novel takes place over a few years in the very recent past in Egypt. It is told primarily from the perspective of Khalil who grew up in the United States and whose father is Palestinian. It opens in Egypt in 2011, where Khalil and his girlfriend Mariam are fully engaged in the Arab spring. The per ...more
“It will start with a bomb and there will be no escape.”

Tough, bleak and yet so inspiring: The City Always Wins draws the reader right into the frenzy of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Similar to Les Miserables you follow people fighting for freedom and justice, and yet from the start you feel how that battle will end.

Khalid and his girlfriend Mariam run with a group of journalists the podcast @ChaosCairo, broadcasting the frenzied revolts in Cairo to the world. President Mubarak, the milit
Joanne Harris
Tough, bleak and relentless, this book won't be for everyone. I found it challenging, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and in many ways, necessary - we have all, after all, watched these events from the safety of our TV screens, but this glimpse into the reality of the events of 2011 is a wholly different - and wholly uncomfortable - experience. But I can't say I enjoyed any of it, though I'm sure that wasn't the intention. I'm glad I read it, and I admire the writer's talent, but I could have ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, netgalley
A well-constructed and important story, even though I didn't love the writing style all that much. Full review to come.
Apr 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Maybe it's my inner revolutionary but I thought this book was amazing. It details the hardships of war, revolution, and dictatorships. It starts off with the Egyptian revolution in 2011, and details the struggles of two main revolutionaries, Miriam and Khalil. While they start off as a couple together, they slowly begin to drift apart as Miriam becomes more reactionary and Khalil seems to become more disillusioned. The author takes us on a journey through the excitement and hope of a new beginni ...more
Surabhi Chatrapathy
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
At end of every page in this book, I took a step back and let the words settle in.
Written through the minds of those who were at the forefront of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, this book will leave you unnerved, and wounded.
If you have only read of wars, revolutions, insurgencies in papers and books but never had to experience it, read this book.
It makes you experience the revolution.
The psychological upheaval, the emotional trauma and physical strain. I can close my eyes now and smell the
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this novel, despite its awards.

The novel is an insider’s look at the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, something few know except in the abstract. The author’s job, at first glance, seems impossible: set out the carnage and the chaos but in a clear, compelling way for the reader to follow. This can’t be easy at the best of times; Hamilton’s job is even harder. For the Arab spring (so far as I know) was the first civil uprising in which Twitter and Facebook played a key part. The
Rebecca Crunden
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
We are surrounded by the conversations we didn't have.

This is one of those books that's necessary. It's harrowing and haunting and painful and beautifully well-written. Hands down recommend it to everyone.
This one hit me quite hard. It's probably the testimonies - particularly the last one by Umm Ayman, in which she says she's done supporting the revolution because every time she calls for people to stand for the cause her son died for, she's sending at least one more to their death. She thinks the state would not stop until there was no one left, and how could she justify her part in the slaughter? It's not cowardice, this, but a voice of a woman pushed to the edge of what she can live with, and ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If Arab Spring or Arab Revolutions can be considered a genre then this is one of my top genres to read especially when it's well written, and this book falls under this genre. It's always interesting having to read this topic in a fictional setting because the fiction and non-fiction intertwine together and creates a new world. This story reflects the uprisings that happened in Egypt portraying a timeline that's before January 25th till present day. The energy that is within the youth in this bo ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I want to give this book a better rating because it is beautifully written. It took me a long time to read, the writer demands so much emotionally (especially from Egyptians, who were there, who know, who experienced what is written). I need to take the time parse out why this book makes me uneasy, and perhaps I can't say that I 'liked it' because it was so difficult to get through and while the fracturing felt very real and relatable, the writing felt like it stood on its emotional triggering a ...more
miss.mesmerized mesmerized
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The promise of a better life. A fight against an unbeatable enemy. A love in a time of upheaval. Almost 20 years under the dictator Mubarak come to an end when masses of people inspired by revolutions in other Muslim countries gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo and force Mubarak to resign. Social media are the new weapons and Mariam and Khalil are in the centre of the protests. They broadcast what is happening to the world and they treat the wounded always in fear of becoming a victim of the polic ...more
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.

The City Always Wins is poetic, heartbreaking and real. Omar Robert Hamilton has crafted a beautiful piece of literature that captures snapshots of hope and despair in a revolution. It is unique and emotional in a way that will stick with the reader long after they reach the last page.

This book is the story of the uprising that started in Tahrir Square in 2011, told through the eyes of Khalil, a Palistinian-Egyptian born in America wh
Ifdal E
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved it. A beautifully styled novel; slam-poetic and sensorial. The novel's strength lay in ORH's ability to capture the rhythms, smells, cacophony, ecstasy, and ultimately the pain of revolutionary life.
Mish Middelmann
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this book to feel what it was like in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, for those at the forefront of the Arab Spring:

Paranoia – what paranoia? It’s real, we feel like we are being picked off one by one and stuck in jail or worse… That is the feeling of this docudrama and it reminds me a lot of living in South Africa under apartheid - there is an important struggle and there are no institutions to depend on in your earnest struggle for a better life for all.

And, visiting Cairo as I was
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This debut novel tells the story of the Egyptian revolution and the disappointment that follows in a frentic way making it difficult to keep up with at times. I feel like the emotion by the author bleeds into the story and makes it very difficult to turn away or not feel overwhelming emotions,especially with the descriptions of several deaths, the torture, and the passionate pleas of freedom. Definitely a relevant book for these times we live in, the fast pace and constant demands of social medi ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The City Always Wins grew on me, or I grew into it. Hamilton uses absolutely beautiful prose to illustrate the emotions attached to revolution and failed revolutions. The stream of consciousness feels like a torrent sometimes as you are caught in page after page of vehemence.
Reading this felt at first like letting someone unload their trama on me, but I found myself reading from my position of privilege with numerous take-aways and questions about my own life, my own assumptions about political
Pooja  Singh
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I can't emphasize enough how beautifully this book is written. And can't believe it's fiction because it's too close to reality. An account of People's lives when the romance of the revolution is over, when the utopian idea is replaced by the dystopian reality. This is what I will call "Creative Fiction"
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A diary out of the 25th of January Revolution ..always good to remember what happened and to reflect on the current state of affairs.
Tammam Aloudat
Memoir books are many, and fiction that reflects real events is plentiful; but it is very rare to find a book that tells a story of a revolution but from the point of view of those who ignited it and died for it, those it elated and then left defeated, and those who gave every last breath, literally and metaphorically, to see it change the world.

The City Always Wins is a heartbreaking book, and I do not say that lightly. There are pages in this volume that will rip you apart and leave you in tat
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I would like to thank Netgalley for my ARC of this book for my honest and unbiased opinion.

This tells the story of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Protesters make their grievances known. They have had to endure police brutality, fraud, corruption, lack of free elections and freedom of speech. The protesters organise strikes. demonstrations, riots and take part in online activism. When President Mubarak is overthrown by the military and another is elected president, nothing seems to change. There a
Dana El
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is less a story and more a snapshot of a particular time, a revolution that came and went. You have to know a good amount about the January 25th revolution to understand this book and its nuances. As someone who followed the revolution day by day, it was exhausting for me to read, but also impossible to put down. The writer is very gifted and his writing grips you - to the point that I sometimes felt I couldn't breath until the end of the paragraph. I cried multiple times reading this book ...more
Kryštof Selucký
"I remember some shadow of a time when I would walk down a street with my eyes ecstatic over every detail, every possibility for the future, but all I see now are soulless strip lights and dying animals and cracked windows in crumbling buildings and inescapable memories that make up this sulfuric city of our dead, our metrocropolis of failure."

Terrifying. Humanely unbearable. Heartbreaking. At points confusing. Yet, poetic and brilliantly written.
Emily Simpson
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. this was the perfect way to learn about a part of history and area of the world that I previously knew little about. the novel is set during the 2011 revolution in egypt. it's a sad, honest portrayal of that time. living in such a safe country it's always shocking to hear about how in the 21st century there are people and places who are through so much hardship. plenty of beautifully written passages in this. got a lot out of it from the first page to the very end.
Karris Hamilton
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I completely fell in love with this book. The first thing I’ve read in a while that I couldn’t put down and was burning to read.
It really transports you to Cairo, to the middle of the revolution, through the eyes of the young people who led it. An emotional rollercoaster that leaves you heavy hearted and hoping for change.
Patrick Schultheis
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I did not like this book.

The positive: it gave me some perspective regarding the revolutions in Egypt in 2011-2013.

The negatives: the characters were not well developed. The plot meandered without a point. The author's style was not to my liking.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully Heartbreaking

Gets the last six years rushing back to you.....the city always wins while.crushing its lovers one by one in the process
Radwa Sherif
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Even knowing the writer's background, I still thought the book, written in English and published in the UK, would target a Western or "international" audience. I half-expected it would focus on the days between January 25th and February 11th, 2011.

But the opening scene shattered this idea.

The opening scene has you in the morgue after Maspero. The perfect start. Almost designed to weed out readers who want a romantic account of the 18 days after Jan25. This was not going to be an easy read.

Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even knowing the writer's background, I still thought the book, written in English and published in the UK, would target a Western or "international" audience. I half-expected it would focus on the days between January 25th and February 11th, 2011.

But the opening scene shattered this idea.

The opening scene has you in the morgue after Maspero. The perfect start. Almost designed to weed out readers who want a romantic account of the 18 days after Jan25. This was not going to be an easy read.

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Omar Robert Hamilton is an award-winning filmmaker and writer. He has written for the Guardian, the London Review of Books, Mada Masr and Guernica.

He is a co-founder of the Palestine Festival of Literature and the Mosireen media collective in Cairo.

His debut novel, The City Always Wins , has just been released.

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