Samia Serageldin's heroine, Gihan, the daughter
of a politically prominent, land-owning Egyptian family, witnesses
the changes sweeping her homeland. As she looks back to the glamorous
Egypt of the pashas and King Faruk, she moves forward to the police
state of the colonels who seized power in 1952 and the disastrous
consequences of Nasser's sequestration policies.
Through well-chosen portraits and telling descriptions
of the era's fashions and furnishings, Serageldin recreates a
world of mores from the unique perspective of an insider/outsider.
She paints unforgettable portraits: the formidable Pasha, the
clan patriarch who presides over the Cairo House; the matchmaking
Tante Zohra; and Madam Helene, the governess. Serageldin's fictional
treatment of recent Egyptian history includes key events leading
to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, such as the assassination
of writer Yussef Siba'yi and the harassment of theologian Nasr
Gihan goes into exile in Europe and the United
States, but returns to Egypt in an attempt to reconcile her past
and present. Charting fresh territory for the American reader,
this semi-autobiographical novel is one of the most sensitive
and accessible documents of historical change in Egyptian life.