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Cairo in the War: 1939-45 [Paperback]

Artemis Cooper
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Oct 2013

For troops in the desert, Cairo meant fleshpots or brass hats. For well-connected officers, it meant polo at the Gezira Club and drinks at Shepheard's. For the irregular warriors, Cairo was a city to throw legendary parties before the next mission behind enemy lines. For countless refugees, it was a stopping place in the long struggle home.

The political scene was dominated by the British Ambassador Sir Miles Lampson. In February 1942 he surrounded the Abdin Palace with tanks and attempted to depose King Farouk. Five months later it looked as if the British would be thrown out of Egypt for good. Rommel's forces were only sixty miles from Alexandria - but the Germans were pushed back and Cairo life went on.

Meanwhile, in the Egyptian Army, a handful of young officers were thinking dangerous thoughts.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (24 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848548842
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848548848
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'As hard to put down as good fiction. The research is wide, detailed and scrupulous. It is hard to think, on finishing, how this demanding book could have been handled better, more lucidly or more entertaining' (Patrick Leigh Fermor, Times Literary Supplement)

'This informative and enjoyable book puts political history side-by-side with the personal sub-history of the characters who determined it . . . a mine of entertaining anecdotes' (Rana Kabbani, Observer)

'What lifts it out of the ordinary is the sparkle of the writing and its command of the background' (P. H. Newby, Sunday Telegraph)

'Much more than a lively and amusing social history. With enormous skill she has shaped it into a gripping account of the progress of the war itself and of the fortunes of its major protagonists. The result is bracing and salutary and very readable indeed' (Charles Allen, Sunday Times)

Book Description

A history of the glamorous and military critical city of Cairo during the Second World War

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting account 31 Oct 2013
By docread
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is gratifying that the publishers have at long last decided to reissue this little gem of historical writing.The astute account of the social and political impact of the war years on cosmopolitan Cairo is simply riveting.The wealth of anecdotes and the description of colourful protagonists read like an engrossing novel .While Rommel's Panzers are sweeping all resistance on their way to Alexandria, the life dramas during these critical years involving the fighters as well as the local onlookers are sympathetically recorded by a historian who is not only interested in political and military history but above all in individual destinies engulfed by the overwhelming events of war.With an eye for details she succeeds also in sketching a panoramic view of a colonial society beset by ambivalent feelings towards the fluctuating British fortunes of war.Yet it was sheltered from the horrors of the actual fighting and the material privations endured by the people in Europe.She contrasts the arrogance of imperial might personified by the British Ambassador Sir Miles Lampton high handed dealings with the wily attempts of the Egyptian King and the local political class to accomodate themselves to a situation they could neither control nor ignore.The political humiliations experienced at the time did sow the seeds of a fierce nationalistic reaction which led to the fall of the Monarchy and the Suez crisis.

There is always a tendency in such chronicles to give greater scope to the testimonies of the Diarists and Memoirists at the expense of the voiceless ordinary people.The former by in large tend to be endowed with large egos or great sense of power, though they exercise considerable fascination for the reader and historian alike.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and entertaining 1 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A brilliant presentation of the personalities in war and the tensions within Egypt, the Command structure and the expectations in London, set in an exotic and dangerous place.
The first part of the book has a superb summation of the precarious position Britain was in, facing actual and near certain military defeats on a number of fronts all along with the need to balance perfidious allies amongst the Egyptians and local enemies determined to see the British presence eliminated. As some of the pressure is relieved after the start of the German assault on the Soviet Union and the Allies move back on the offensive in the Western Desert, Cooper interweaves the rivalries and back-biting disputes within the military and political spheres, mixed with the good times of Cairo, energetically embraced by those whose lives were at risk and those who were having a good war.
The photos are good and just a few more would be even better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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Very well researched and written. It sheds light on a period of our history little known to most British people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book 10 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the book I've been waiting to read. Having heard stories of life in wartime Cairo from my father I found the detail fascinating
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