An eloquent lament.



A fictional memoir of the intense, symbiotic relationship between an Egyptian poet and the Arab world’s greatest female singer.

In rapt, lyrical prose, Paris-based writer and journalist Nassib spins a rhapsodic narrative out of the indissoluble connection between two creative souls inextricably bound by their art. His nameless protagonists, the poet and the singer, are based on historical figures Ahmad Rami and Om Kalthoum, and their story plays out against the transformative political events of 20th-century Egypt. Returning to his nation in the early 1920s, shortly after Independence Day, the poet is invited to attend a concert at which his words are brilliantly interpreted and sung by a young peasant girl dressed as a Bedouin boy. A spark ignites between the gifted writer and the astonishing performer, and he willingly agrees to write more aching poetry for her to sing. In keeping with the nation’s mood, the singer, whose fame advances rapidly, casts aside the influence of her lowly family to personify the modernism of the new age. Dubbed the “Star of the Orient,” she spends many years unmarried, although gossip about her private life abounds. Over time, their attachment becomes a voracious, destructive factor in the poet’s life. When relations are cool between them, he understands the full measure and pain of the inhuman force uniting them, which also drives a wedge between him and his wife Hoda. The diva performs across the Arab world and at every key national event, coming to embody the country’s progress as it moves through a military coup, the rise of Nasser, then the Suez era. By the time of the Six-Day War, she is over 60, and the defeat causes a collapse, but she rallies and leads the effort to mobilize the country. Her funeral in the 1970s, and Nasser’s assassination, mark the end of hope for “eastern modernism.”

An eloquent lament.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2006

ISBN: 1-933372-07-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2006

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed. This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel". It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define. Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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