Goodreads Synopsis: Cairo, 1984. A blisteringly hot summer. A young girl in a sprawling family house. Her days pass quietly: listening to a mother’s phone conversations, looking at the Nile from a bedroom window, watching the three state-sanctioned TV stations with the volume off, daydreaming about other lives. Underlying this claustrophobic routine is mystery and loss. Relatives mutter darkly about the newly-appointed President Mubarak. Everyone talks with melancholy about the past. People disappear overnight. Her own father has left, too—why, or to where, no one will say.
We meet her across three decades, from youth to adulthood: As a six-year old absorbing the world around her, filled with questions she can’t ask; as a college student and aspiring filmmaker pre-occupied with love, language, and the repression that surrounds her; and then later, in the turbulent aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrow, as a writer exploring her own past. Reunited with her father, she wonders about the silences that have marked and shaped her life.
At once a mapping of a city in transformation and a story about the shifting realities and fates of a single Egyptian family, Yasmine El Rashidi’s Chronicle of a Last Summer traces the fine line between survival and complicity, exploring the conscience of a generation raised in silence.
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I just finished this book a few minutes ago and decided it would be best to write my review while it is still fresh in my mind. Unfortunately it’s one of those fantastic books that takes awhile to digest, so this post is going to take me a few hours to write.
I love books like this one. Chronicle of A Last Summer has everything in it that keeps me interested. Beautiful prose, compelling main character, and a true story. Fiction is entertaining, and it can definitely tell great stories. But it’s the stories taken from real life that usually speak to me the most.
Chronicle of A Last Summer follows around a girl, nameless for the entire story, showing life through her eyes. Telling the story of political unrest in Egypt, telling the story of her father leaving, and the story of how she found her voice through writing. This book is beautifully written, each scene described so well it feels like a movie playing in your head. It’s not hard to feel connected to our main character as she goes through confusing times of her father leaving and no one talking about it. The story follows in the summers when she’s older and watching her country be changed by riots and revolutions, as she visits family members in jail and when her father finally comes home again.
This book isn’t a fast read, I found myself wanting to read slower sometimes because there are so many thoughts on life and war and love. It’s a quiet book and a sometimes strangely quiet life. This book isn’t an action story at all. It’s a life story.
I gave this book four stars on Goodreads and was given a copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair review.