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sirinrob

'Palace Walk' Naguib Mahfouz

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Set against the backdrop of Egypt under the British Protectorate and the political tensions that causes, this follows the fortunes of the Al Jawad family.

 

The head of the family, Ahmad, is an ultraconservative Muslim, who rules his family with an iron will. Outside of the family he is civility itself. As the novel progresses it becomes clear how much this is a facade, behind which he hides his doubts and anxieties. For all his professed piety, his knowledge of Islam is shallow. One thinh he detests is thinking deeply. He spends his evenings with like minded friends, drinking and womanising. There are a couple of occasions when someone stands up to him, and defeats him. which he takes as a slight on his honour.

 

His wife, Amina, is submissive, but also fixed in her ideas, many based on her knowledge of Islam together with superstitions. As she is confined to the house, her knowledge of the world is limited and she has many naive views on what happens outside the home. she is Ahmad's second wife, his first wife having been divorced.

 

They have 2 daughters and 3 sons, one of the sons Yasin being a stepson to Amina. Yasin takes after his father; he likes his drink and chasing women. his temprement is similar to his father's but he lacks the cunning ways employed by his father to cover his tracks. He is married to a woman of turkish descent at one point. This is a disaster, which leads to complications.

 

The middle son Fahmney is the serious studious family member, who unlike the rest of the family has enlightened religious views and is sincerely pious. He gets caught up in the nationalistic fervor that takes Egypt over, this causing a confrontation with his father.

 

The youngest son Kamal, is a cheeky ten year old, with rather idealistic views heavily influenced by his mother.

 

The two sisters are like their mother confined to the home. They act almost as servants to the mother. Aisha is pretty, but shallow. Khadija is unattractive and sharp tongued. Both get married off and leave the home, living as it happens in the same house since their respective husbands are brothers.

 

The novel opens with a straight forward thumbnail of each family member, the rest of the novel develops each character, each situation revealing more aspects of them. This is skilfully and deftly handled. The overall style is evocative, and written in an economic style which flows well.

 

The ending is poignant and was unexpected. I was impressed with this novel and I'm now going to read the rest of the 'Cairo Trilogy' which this is the first part of.

Edited by sirinrob

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Glad you enjoyed it. This on my TBR Pile as well as Midaq Alley by the same author. I did not buy all the books of THe Cairo Trilody as I wanted to see how the first one went. Sounds promising. Thanks for the review

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