Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt

Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt

by Yasmine El Rashidi

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Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Rayleigh More than 1 year ago
I received this book from the author/publisher for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own. Chronicle of a Last Summer is very unique to read, possibly because it is Egyptian fiction (and the author herself is Egyptian). It's writing is very interesting, different, but I actually liked it, and the story is fascinating. It's written in first person through the eyes of a young woman, and because its first person, she never addresses her own name, not even when other people are talking to her, making it a lot like a mysterious diary. The dialogue is captured in italics rather than quotation marks and it is written in such a way that the author never needs to put in the phrase "he said". There are absolutely no indications of who is saying what, yet we know without a doubt who is saying what and in what tone they are using. Like I said earlier, it is very different than anything I have ever read, but it was a good kind of different. As for the storyline, I eventually lost interest in it and just put it down because it was so repetitive and I couldn't get into it, I made it about halfway. The content up to that point however was relatively clean only saying the word "bu**er" (which has the same meaning as our "f" word in European countries) twice and a brief one sentence mention of a lesbian couple who are relatives of the main character. So even though I was relatively pleased with the writing style, I, personally, wasn't impressed with the storyline and therefore can only give it 3 out of 5 stars, because there are others who will find this title more fitting to their preferences. This review was originally published on Literature Approved (http://literatureapproved.wordpress.com).
Darcy714 More than 1 year ago
Chronicle of a Last Summer is a novella told through the eyes of a female narrator in three periods of her life. The first section the narrator is, I believe, about 4 to 6, the second, 18 to 20 and the third about 34 to 36 or so. Author Yasmine El Rashidi has written an interesting story that is hard to categorize. From the beginning section told in a sort of stream of consciousness style to the ending which felt like it stopped in the middle of a thought, there is a jarring quality about the book that seems to be attempting something. Unfortunately I’m not sure the author achieved it. Phrases in the book seem to indicate that the author is attempting to define the writing style of her time, such as “We were both interested in…what a new Egyptian modernism, founded in the vernacular might be…” I had two issues with this novel. The first is that I needed more background. Admittedly I’m pretty uninformed about the political history of Egypt – particularly the revolutions that occurred from the 1940’s on that this book discusses. This made it very difficult to follow along in conversations about revolutions, the leaders, the coups, etc and the impact it had on Egypt. If this were a novel published in Egypt alone, there would be no need for explanation, however I think it likely that a lot of readers will get similarly lost and it feels like one misses something of the book’s essence as a result. The second issue may just be me nitpicking and perhaps the finished version of the story has a footnote on this, but I never had any idea what the relative value of money is there. For instance, when the narrator spends 100 pounds on something, is that a little? A lot? I think I came into this novel wanting to understand Egypt better, but instead found a story that, while having some well-phrased insights and a general FEELING of the atmosphere there, didn’t provide much information on Egypt’s culture, its history and etc. On the positive side, this is a fast read, less than two hundred pages, and an interesting twist on writing styles. The beginning part is odd and a bit confusing since the reader only learns about things through the eyes of a young child whose mind jumps around a lot. It is difficult at times to center oneself in time since memories blend with the present in the narrator’s thoughts but perhaps that is the point. It does however accomplish its narration in a decidedly different way which kept me reading. I guess overall I’m ambivalent. It wasn’t what I was hoping for personally but those who like artsy styles of writing or who have a much better grasp of Egyptian political history in the past century may enjoy it more. Disclaimer I received a free ARC from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
The place is Egypt; the time is the summer of 1984. A young child is narrating the story and describing the conditions in Egypt and the schools. It is brutally hot. For the next three decades, we watch her as she goes through life in a changing Egypt. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 and Mubarak ascended to that throne. Many of the child’s relatives are anti-Israel and anti-American. In Egyptian schools they learn to resent Israel and to blame the Jews for their troubles. Her father is anti-Israel. She attends the English school. It is a more varied education with less vacation time. They are Muslims, but while her mother seems to practice her religion quietly, and seems more open to a secular lifestyle, her father seems more deeply religious and angrier with Israel and the historic governmental changes. Her dialogue and unanswered questions, which are asked without guile or prejudice, raise the reader’s consciousness and force the reader to think about the culture and the Middle East more thoughtfully. Through the eyes of this nameless child and her interactions with various relatives, friends, and those she works with as she grows older, through the conversations with those who pass through life with her, we watch Egypt as it morphs from a country under one rule and than another and another until today, with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi currently at its helm. Although the philosophies and ruling styles changed from government to government, from extreme to moderate, from religious to a bit more secular, again and again, things still seemed to really remain the same for the Egyptians, but not for those in power who grabbed every advantage for themselves and their compadres, locking up those who did not comply with their new regime and its methods. On every page, the thoughts exploded and queried the reader, but the child grown into a woman rarely judged, and so her input never seemed to truly become fully grown ideas for me, rather I was left to continually ponder the meaning of her message. The book covers Egypt’s tumultuous history, its change of regimes, complete with revolts, attempted assassinations and government overthrows, revolutions, and even elections, but still, in spite of each change of government, ruler and philosophy, little change for the citizens seemed to occur. The only major change was the name of the dictator. Some rulers may have changed their philosophy a bit, some citizens may have as well, but basically, they all still lived in a world of uncertainty. The more things changed the more things seemed to remain the same for them; some different ideas and philosophies were tolerated, but there was still the possibility of free thought being someone’s downfall. The anti-Israel rhetoric that consistently blamed the Jews and their homeland, in one way or another, has never altered. It was reinforced in their schools, even after there was peace between the two countries. The peace was tenuous as was the lifestyle of the citizens depending on who sat at the head of the table. At the end, I felt like I had read an outline that the author wanted me to enhance, perhaps wanted me to fill in more details to complete her story, which was largely on the surface, but which provoked in-depth thoughtfulness for this read and should inspire others, as well, to learn more about Egypt and its culture and people.