The Girls from Alexandria
by Carol Cooper
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 29 Apr 2021 | Archive Date 06 Aug 2021
Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.
Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.
Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.
Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.
Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s third novel is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.
A Note From the Publisher
If you enjoyed reading The Girls from Alexandria, we'd really appreciate seeing your honest review on Amazon. Thank you and happy reading, Agora Books.
Average rating from 60 members
I received an advance copy of, The Girls from Alexandria, by Carol Cooper. I really enjoyed this book. Most book out now are very cookie cutter, this is different. This book goes back and forth from childhood to present day. The characters are well drawn out.
Brilliant! Powerful and thought-provoking.
Part historical novel and part psychological thriller with medical puzzles, there are plenty of hooks to make this a page-turner. Is Nadia’s sister Simone still alive? Why did she disappear fifty years ago? What are the cryptic clues hidden in the postcards she sent? To make it even more of a puzzle for the reader, seventy-year-old Nadia’s short-term memory is befuddled and the impatient doctor keeps telling her she doesn’t have a sister.
The detective work on her present and past medical problems is as satisfying as an episode of ‘House’. The modern timeline is painfully realistic, from the oppression imposed by a hospital regime to the way her words go missing from Nadia’s memory. Thank goodness for the caring nurse Deirdre!
Although I wanted to know what happened during the sisters’ puberty and which of the men in their lives was guilty of some vile act, what I loved was the vivid evocation of multi-cultural Alexandria. It was no surprise to read that the author grew up there as the everyday detail of food, drink and social habits, is quite brilliant.
Lawrence Durrell’s ‘Alexandria Quartet’ has long been a favourite book and Carol Cooper immersed me once more in this most cosmopolitan of cities, from the 1950s to the present day. The terms from other languages added to the rich multi-cultural feel of Alexandrian society and were never confusing. The turbulent politics of Alexandria are described from a resident’s viewpoint, which is a fascinating eye-opener to this British reader.
To me, the male characters seemed either vile or a mere backdrop to the women’s relationships with each other, not just between the two blood sisters but also friends, relatives, nannies, maids and nurses. What matters in the novel is this strong sisterhood in which women sustain and comfort each other. This paved the way nicely for an ending which fitted the characters and story.
But did I LIKE the ending? Yes and no. It was slippery and nuanced, a satisfying resolution on the surface but with so much difficult ‘stuff’ underneath. Just like the book itself, demanding that the reader get involved and think about it. This would be a perfect read and discussion for any Book Club – recommended!
What can I say!? This book needs to come with a caveat. If you have laundry to fold, Zoom meetings to digitally attend or a hungry spouse that needs feeding ( sorry, David!) then please don’t read this book because once you start, you will not stop. I desperately wanted to absorb the entire story as quickly as possible. The Girls of Alexandria is one of the most elegant, beautifully written, strikingly original books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I really don’t want to give too much away, but the author does a superb job dipping in and out of Nadia’s hazy memories and the confusing present day. This flows ever so seamlessly, just like the River Nile itself. Themes of death, child abuse, loneliness, lies, longing and loss are all touched upon in this startling read, mixed with a dash of humour here and there for good measure ( especially in the hospital chapters). Furthermore, you could say this book doubles as an educational read too as there is an excellent insight into Egypt's political history, plus I’ve learnt so much about the culture of Alexdrainian. I would highly recommend to everyone. Bravo! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
The story moves between different times.
Now, Nadia is in an hospital in England. She's recovering from a seizure and with a bad memory and with no obvious family to care for her the hospital is making arrangements for her to go into a care home. She might be forgetting things but she clearly remembered her sister.
Then, is in Egypt, with her parents, extended family and her sister Simone. That is until Simone disappeared.
This is a fascinating book about life in Alexandria from the 1950's and the people in Nadia's life. The younger Nadia living her life as it was, the older Nadia desperately trying to hang on to her memories. I liked how it moved from different timelines, watching her from a young child to coming of age. The impact on her when her sister just vanished. It turns into quite the page turner as the mystery is unravelled. Very moving and heartfelt.
I loved learning about life in Alexandria in the mid 1900's. This was an excellent, heart wrenching mystery.
Thank you NetGalley and Agora Books for the digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
This was a gorgeous book set in Alexandria during the 1950’s -1970’s and in present day UK (though thankfully slightly pre Covid).
Nadia is elderly and confused, lying in hospital after a supposed brain biopsy. She knows she wants to track down her sister but she hasn’t seen her for 50 years. She thinks back over key events in her childhood and what happened between the two of them.
It’s a period of time in Egypt that I’ve never looked at before which was very interesting. I liked that Nadia’s childhood memories weren’t necessarily in order but as they occurred to her in her confused state.
Overall, really enjoyed this!
I adored this richly detailed story of two sisters growing up in Alexandria, Egypt in the 20th century. Alexandria was a beautiful and cultured, sophisticated and cosmopoliton city at this time. Sisters, Nadia and Simone are being raised in their father's household with other close family members. The girls enjoy a rich and priviledged life where they have grown up speaking Arabic, French, and English .They have servants who cater to their every want and need, such as carrying blocks of ice to the beach so they might have cold drinks. The girls are well educated and are exposed to various colorful characters, and an interesting mix of cultures in this beautiful provincial city of azure seas,brilliant sunshine, glorious sunsets and pristine beaches.
In the present day, Nadia lays in a hospital in London trying to get her bearings. She has awakened with a bandage around her head and is confused and disoriented. She isn't sure what has happened.. Is she ill or did she have an accident? The doctors and nurses aren't at all helpful in the busy hospital ward and just keep telling her she losing her memory. As she doses off trying to stay conscious she hears someone say she is alone and has no one, no family.. They say she must go to a care home within the next few days if no family is found. But wait, what are they saying? I have a sister, Nadia thinks, I must wake up and tell them. I must find my sister. But how do you find someone when no one believes she is missing? And Nadia hasn't seen Simone in 50 years.
With only a tin of old postcards that contained short and cryptic messages Simone sent home after she abruptly disappeared and her own fading memeories, Nadia exhibts strength and determination in her refusal to give up on finding her sister before it's too late.
What a fun story! I’ve discovered that I love the blend of historical fiction and thriller. I felt like I was being transported to a different time while also feeling anxiety but in the best way! The author did well cultivating back stories and tying each thread together seamlessly. Great book!
The Girls From Alexandria
Seventy-year-old Nadia is in a London hospital and not quite sure what’s going on. Her memory isn’t what it used to be, and she keeps getting confused and misremembering. But one thing she’s sure of is that she needs to find her sister Simone, who she hasn’t seen in fifty years. The problem is, no one else believes Simone exists. Well, no one except the lovely nurse Deidre, who tries to help her find her sister before it's too late.
The author opens the book talking about how her inspiration for the story came from her own memories of growing up in Alexandria and you can really feel that authenticity radiating from the pages. The author offers the reader not only an insight into the cultural and political landscape of Egypt, but also an authentic perspective on how it feels to grow up in Alexandria, its multiculturalism and verve oozing from the pages. It is a fascinating, educational and thought-provoking read, the author touching on a variety of subjects such as family, identity, loss, loneliness and female empowerment.
Nadia is a character I won’t soon forget. It is impossible not to feel for her lying in hospital distressed, confused and alone. But there is so much more to her. She is a nuanced, funny, compelling and feisty character who is determined to find her sister by solving the brief, cryptic messages she wrote on decades-old postcards; even learning how to use the internet to search for answers. I enjoyed following her through timelines, countries and cultures as she revisited old memories and searched them for any small clue that might lead her to her beloved sister.
I will admit that it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of this story. The huge shift between the bleak British hospital where Nadia languishes alone and confused and the striking, sunny backdrop of Alexandria was difficult to follow at first, particularly as the flashbacks don’t follow a chronological order. But once I did I was engrossed, lost in Nadia’s story and fully invested in her search for Simone.
This novel is unlike anything else I’ve read. Merging historical fiction, mystery and coming-of-age fiction,, the author has crafted a multilayered, evocative and affecting story that will linger long after reading.
I always enjoy reading something out of my comfort zone and it’s a bonus when it concerns an area or a topic which I know nothing about. In this novel that area was Alexandria, I’m ashamed to say I had never even heard of it.
It’s a dual time frame novel where Nadia features in both. The modern day where Nadia is in hospital, aged 70 and being ignored by the medics who were going through the motions of providing care. The other part of the novel started in the 1950s and went through to modern day covering Nadia’s childhood and then her married life in Alexandria and London. And whilst I loved her wry approach to life and way of coping with being ignored in modern day I also enjoyed reading about a completely different way of life in Alexandria. There were parts that made me sad and wary but there were also parts that made me smile. I have never thought about how strange some of the British everyday phrases seem to those who aren’t used to them. I felt that Nadia, Fouad, and their many friends took a lot of pleasure in using them.
Like a few in the novel I wasn’t convinced by Simone’s existence at first. But as it progressed I wanted her to be real if for no other reason to make those who should have provided care to listen to Nadia. I hope that I have never have the misfortune to get doctors like the ones who feature here.
An absolutely wonderful novel that I read at a perfect time for me
*I received an ARC from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
The Girls from Alexandria is a straight up masterpiece - the writing is interesting and fluid and powerful, and the premise is brilliant. I haven't experienced anything in the mystery/thriller genre quite like this and I am here for it.
This story follows its protagonist Nadia in two prongs - as a 70 year old woman who has been hospitalised, and her early life reminiscensces up until present day. In the present Nadia is incredibly unwell - possibly with dementia - and hyper-fixated on finding her lost sister.
This is not a fast-paced, urgently terrifying psychological thriller. Instead it is quietly and insidiously worrisome - the big ticket thriller items (sexual assault, murder, general death) play out not for shock value but as inevitabilities in the lives of women. Its utterly gripping and yet also incredibly gentle.
For the duration the reader is hyper-aware of the possible fates awaiting both Nadia and her sister: Nadia is an elderly woman in a public hospital who is angry and terrified and confused and ignored. Her sister disappeared as a young woman where we have been made aware of the terrible fates young women in their circle have met. To weave usual Big Shock thriller items into the ordinary lives of these girls (in a way that women universally experience these things) and then to play on the fear of who we become and how we are treated in our old age is sort of. Brilliant? It's done masterfully.
This story explores the damage women suffer at the hands of men and society in its every-day-ness. It examines race and culture and family dynamics and trauma in an incredible way. It's exploration of what it is to navigate life as a woman at any age - particularly at the ages in which women are at their most invisible - is something that I find incredibly thought-provoking.
I'm probably going to do a much more in-depth break down at a later date but its safe to say for now everybody should read this book.
Moving between Nadia’s confinement in a hospital bed and exotic 1950s Alexandria, this was a dual time story that totally gripped me from its opening pages – I settled down and read it from cover to cover in a single sitting, and found it both a fascinating and compelling read.
In the present day, Nadia is hospitalised and suffering both confusion and memory loss, fixated on the need to find her sister Simone who disappeared from her life over 50 years ago. The drawing of her hospital experience is searingly realistic – the inability of the busy staff to treat her as an individual, the not listening, the impatience, the discussions at the bedside. The doctors have decided that she’s destined for a move into care, an elderly mentally infirm assessment unit, and it only makes her need to find her sister all the more urgent. She has a box of precious postcards, sent by Simone from a variety of locations – the words on them are often enigmatic, words and phrases that might provide a clue to her whereabouts, and Nadia examines their detail obsessively in the hope that she can decipher their cryptic messages. When one kind nurse lends her an iPad and shows her how to use it, it opens up a whole new range of possibilities for her search, but time is running out.
As her memories are triggered, the story takes us to the Alexandria of her youth, initially a coming of age story set against a backdrop of Egypt through a time of enormous political and cultural change. But the story itself focuses more on family and relationships, seen through a child’s eyes, with a whole range of exotic and colourful characters – it’s richly detailed, and I was entirely transported to both the era and the location. Through a series of small remembered incidents, sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, it paints a fascinating picture of the place of women in a patriarchal society – but if that makes it sound “dry”, it most certainly isn’t. There’s a tremendous vibrancy and energy about the writing, as Nadia meanders through her memories of life surrounded by her extended family and the assortment of dubious aunts and uncles, her child’s eye view not quite capturing the underlying seediness of their lives and some of their actions. And the narrative slowly moves us through Nadia’s life – her decisions as an adult that have had such an impact on her life, and brought her to the point where she’s alone in her hospital bed with her box of postcards.
The author captures characters and conveys them in a few deft strokes in a way I thought was quite exceptional – the hospital staff, her friend Sheila (her only visitor), the various people who’ve touched her life – and her facility in building the worlds her book inhabits quite took my breath away. And, always at the story’s centre, Nadia is a superb character – strong, determined, wryly funny – and you can’t help being firmly in her corner as others dismiss her quest for her missing sister as the product of her confused mind. As well as the fascination with her life, it’s that quest that makes the pages turn ever faster – and it all plays out totally deliciously, with a few surprises along the way. And the author’s emotional touch is simply perfect.
Very different, immersive and compelling, both funny and disturbing, totally unforgettable, I entirely loved this book – and Nadia will have a place in my heart forever. I recommend this one really highly – one of my books of the year.
(Review will be copied to Amazon UK on publication day)
A fascinating, complex and engrossing read that kept me hooked.
The author delivers a story with a dual time line, now and the 20th century Alexandria, an unreliable narrator who can't remember some parts of her life and a solid mystery.
It's the first book I read by this author and won't surely be the last.
This is highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Published at the link below on 4th April 2021
A tin of old postcards hold half a century of secrets in this excellent novel from Carol Cooper. The Girls from Alexandria reminded me very much of Elizabeth is Missing, as Nadia struggles with holes in her memory while trying to find out what happened to her sister Simone over fifty years before.
The book paints two very vivid pictures in its dual timeline and they could not be more different. A young Nadia lives a relatively affluent life in cosmopolitan Alexandria, even in the midst of political upheaval, while the elderly Nadia languishes in an over-stretched hospital, where compassion is hard to come by. This second location is hugely depressing, and you would hope that a lot of the elements were fictionalised to some extent!
Each section of the book set in Egypt is alive with the atmosphere of the late 50s as the pieces of Nadia and Simone’s stories leading up to Simone’s disappearance leave clues that Nadia desperately tries to pick at in her later years and it’s interesting to see her make connections as an adult between things that would never have occurred to a child.
This book is very much character-driven and Nadia is not all that she appears at the beginning of the book. It’s incredibly frustrating to see her trapped in a hospital bed, with the medical staff not even believing that she had a sister in the first place – the vindication when she is able to prove that Simone was real is incredibly rewarding!
I found the sections dealing with the political situation in Egypt fascinating, from Nasser to the Arab Spring, and there was a deep sense of injustice in the treatment of women in Egypt running all through the book – snippets of Nadia and Simone’s lives show their dissatisfaction with that status quo too.
It’s clear in every page of this book tht Carol Cooper is writing what she knows, and that gives the book so much extra depth – I highly recommend it.
Seventy year old Nadia is an inpatient in a British hospital and whilst the, rather uncaring, medical people around her struggle to find out what is causing her health problems, Nadia is more concerned with trying to find her older sister, Simone, who she hasn’t seen for fifty years.
The story splits between two time frames, so that we get to spend time, in the present, with the elderly Nadia in hospital, and then, as she reminisces, we go back to the 1950 and 60s, and back to a time when Nadia and Simone were growing up in Alexandria. Using her own experiences of growing up in this part of the world the author describes Nadia’s life really well, painting a a colourful picture of growing up in a complicated family with a motley collection of aunts, uncles and family friends. We also get a real sense what was happening politically, and culturally, in Egypt during this time.
The story is particularly poignant in the present, especially as Nadia seems unable to understand just what it is that the doctors are asking of her and this general uncertainty is reflected in the way Nadia’s meandering thought patterns take her back time after time to her younger days in Alexandria. I especially loved how Nadia embraced the idea of social media and got to grips with a borrowed Ipad in quick time.
Whilst this is a thought provoking and beautifully maintained coming-of-age story, it’s also about the frailty aspect of increasing age, and how easy it is for older people to become thought of as merely shadows of themselves and then are seemingly disregarded. The Girls from Alexandria is a quietly introspective story written by an author who understands how to hold the reader's attention with a beautifully written story about love, loss, family and cultural identity.
I didn't expect to love this much as I did! Not sure why. Initially, in the first couple of pages, I really wasn't sure if it was "my kind of book" but then I got hooked and discovered that it very much was. I'm intending to read the author's other books now. Hope they're as good!
The Girls from Alexandria is the story of Nadia and flits between two time periods, her childhood and early adulthood, mainly in Alexandria in Egypt, and then later a seventy-something woman in a hospital bed, struggling with mobility and memory issues. She claims to have a sister but the hospital staff don't believe her and she hasn't seen this sister for many, many years. Will she ever track her down? And will the doctors get to the root of her health problems?
I found the narrator very real and I think that's why I enjoyed this book so much. Loved the mingling of foreign languages in there, Arabic and French.
I loved this book!! Totally refreshing, a very different story telling than the usual historical fiction novel.
This story had me feeling as if I was the character Nadia, a 70 something woman stuck in the hospital, not knowing or understanding why, searching for a sister no one believes she has.
Nadia fell, ended up in a hospital and is befuddled, she doesn't remember thins as she should, is confused, mixing memories past and present together. If only her sister Simone who she hasn't seen in over 50 years was here, Simone would be able to clear Nadia's head and help her remember, but how can she find Simone when no one believes she exists and Nadia is stuck in the hospital, the only clues to finding her long lost sister, a borrowed I-pad with sketchy wi-fi service and a series of old postcards sent by Simone over the last 50 years with one line cryptic messages on them.
I was as confused as poor Nadia reading this. Other than her wanting to find her sister because she was sick in the hospital and alone, I had no idea where this story was going. That something happened in the past causing Simone to leave and never return was apparent, but as for what? Nadia has no idea and neither does the reader.
This story is part historical fiction and part mystery. I was caught from the beginning, only guessing at the secret Nadia is trying to uncover with her faulty memory. The story weaves back and forth from the present day with Nadia in an English hospital, to her past and her life with Simone in Alexandria. The mystery of Simone's disappearance keeps you guessing until the unexpected ending!
This is a well written novel with wonderful descriptions of life in Alexandria, Egypt starting in the 1950s until the present. I would recommend this to all historical fiction fans. It is a story of family, loss and sisterhood. I give it a 5 star rating.
Thank you to Agora Books publishing and Net Galley for the free ARC copy, in return I am leaving my honest review.
I loved that this book had two mysteries: what happened to her sister Simone, and what health issue was ailing her. I also liked how it switched back and forth between the past and present. I also like how the past parts weren’t always chronologically told. I found it interesting throughout the whole book. I had to keep reading to find out what happened. It ended with a lot of unanswered questions that I want the answer to. An excellent read.
The book cleverly retells the story 9f 2 sisters growing up in Alexandria, interleaved with a modern day mystery for Nadia. It pulled at my heartstrings from beginning to end and I fell in live with Nadia and her search for Simone. Wonderful!
I loved this dual time line novel set in the present day and in 1950s/60s Alexandria. I adored the author's depiction of Alexandria during this period, she really brought the time and place alive for me. I connected with the characters and the themes of the novel. The reflections on aging and memory particularly resonated with me. Highly recommended.
many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC.
I have to say first and foremost, that. I love the cover of this book. Our main character Nadia, is a 70 year old lady, stuck in hospital and struggling with a failing memory. One thing she can remember is that she had a sister, but she’s been missing for 50 years. She has to find her family though, otherwise she faces the rest of her life in a care home. This is a race against time, because Nadia’s working with a memory that might fade and apart from some cryptic postcards it’s all she’s got.
The structure takes a bit of time getting used to, because we’re experiencing Nadia memories and they’re fractured. The author has purposely scattered the memories, they’re not in chronological order so it takes time to piece it together in your mind. It’s a great picture of dementia and how it works, Nadia might not remembered who visited yesterday, but her memories of Egypt are very vivid and powerful. I think that’s because they’re so precious, and because they are long term memories, so Nadia has held on to them for a very long term, since the 1960s/70s.
I found the restrictions of Egyptian culture, for successive generations of women in this family, really interesting. This felt like a feminist social history, writing back to female experience in a society that repressed women and didn’t value them. Nadia and Simone her sister, are central to this experience, but we see her aunts and grandmothers experience too. This society is deeply patriarchal and although concessions are made over the generations, the sisters are still chafing against the rules. There are more difficult scenes where male abuses of power are depicted, but even in the present day hospital scenes it’s men in charge and men make the decisions. They give the impression of thinking she’s a dotty old lady, and Nadia is so frustrated that they don’t believe she has a sister, I loved that Nadia is doggedly determined to work out Simone’s postcards, we start to get behind her and feel hopeful she will be proved right. I love that a woman stuck in bed can take us travelling back in time and to a different continent, to the richness of Alexandria. This isn’t an explosive book, it’s slow and reflective, and it’s about the importance of family, roots and being able to know where you come from as you reach your older years.
In contemporary London, Nadia is hospitalized and confused. Facing the prospect of a long-term care facility she must find her sister Simone who has been missing for 50 years to avoid the fate she is facing. Confused about the past and not sure how to begin her search, Nadia plunges in and begins to find out some truths about her past as well as the present.
Alternating between the present and the past of 20th Century Alexandria, this beautifully written novel, is an unusual coming of age story. Set against the sights, sounds and smells of Alexandria, Nadia’s story unfolds revealing long lost secrets and the difficulties of growing up amidst a culture that does not always value females.
A fascinating look into life in Alexandria and a different culture, written with beautiful prose. Cooper handles difficult subjects with care and sensitivity. This is a wonderful read for fans of historical fiction as well as women’s fiction.
A beautiful book. I definitely went into this book seeing the mindblowing cover. Its indeed a pleasure to read such new fiction from time to time. Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for this book.
Firstly Thanks NetGalley, secondly can we talk about how beautiful this cover is, one of the reason why I requested this book.
The story goes about Nadia an elderly woman who lives in London who doesn't trust her mind, she wants to find her sister but everyone around her tries to dismiss her and tell her that she is being delusional but she starts to gets postal and those reignite some memories... and then the drama starts
Is a so damn good read. I was hooked from the beginning to the end. So recommended the characters, the story... THE END...
Nadia, 70 years old, is in an skilled nursing facility after a seizure. As the medical staff try to figure out what is wrong with her, Nadia’s confused brain returns to two pole stars. She wants to find the sister she hasn’t seen in fifty years, and she reminisces about her childhood in Alexandria.
The descriptions and stories of Egypt in the years between 1953 and the present are brilliant. Carol Cooper spent her childhood in Alexandria, and her memories have illuminated Nadia’s.
The present day story is equally finely detailed. I’ve spent significant time in an SNF with a parent, and the description of the staff, the procedures, and the other patients are spot-on. (While Nadia’s doctors are not paragons of medical care, they are realistic overworked clinicians!)
I was engrossed in this novel from start to finish, and was sorry to emerge, although happy with the way that the loose ends of Nadia’s life were tied up.
Nadia, a 70-year-old woman, finds herself in a London hospital, alone and searching fruitlessly for her sister Simone, whom she has had little contact with for 50 years. Through postcards and her memories, Nadia strives to find Simone. Evocative, with wonderful descriptions of her life in Alexandria, this is a well written historical novel, well worth the read.
One of my favourite genres is Historical Fiction and this one did not disappoint. It is a mystery, a story about ageing, about family and memories. A woman struggling it the later years of her life, a story that goes from the past to the present.
It is a book that gets into your heart and head as you deal with what can happen to the older generations as they loose a grip on what is happening around them. It makes you think, what really happened to Simone (Nadia's sister) and why doesn't anyone believe Nadia?
A page-turner, a book with heart, a story that really could happen to anyone, a story that pulls at your heartstrings.
A great read, written well by a great author.
Nadia and Simone live with their parents in Alexandria Egypt, spending their days at the beach and avoiding too much interaction with their obnoxious cousin Victor. Cooper weaves a dreamlike picture of their family and the extended community of "outsiders" who emigrated from Syria over 100 years ago. Their family is Greek Orthodox in a largely Muslim world. Some experiences with trusted people go awry. There is also love and humor and tragedy spanning fifty-plus years. We learn everything about the sisters' childhood, Nadia's escapades, marriage, affairs, and her observations of those who touched her life through Nadia's present-day remembrances from a hospital bed in England. She has suffered a seizure with unexplained origins. Her doctors are convinced she is "EMI" (elderly, mentally infirm) not the least because she keeps talking about her sister Simone when staff is certain she has no sister. Simone was lost to the family about fifty years ago. She sent brief postcards, meant to get past censors, but no information about where she settled in England. Nadia's increasingly frantic efforts to find Simone and avoid being placed in a nursing home form the contemporary part of the novel. Nadia is widowed, has no children and one friend. One nurse kindly shares an IPad with her and gives her ideas about how to conduct searches online for her sister. Other nurses tend to her but see her as fanciful and agree they need her bed for someone else. Throughout, Cooper covers a period of intense political and social/cultural change in Egypt in the 20th Century. This was engaging from beginning to end, beautifully conceived and written.