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4.4 out of 5 stars31
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 17 November 2002
I just reread this book, after reading it many years ago. In the intervening time, I spent several months in Egypt, and moved to Morocco, where I have resided for nine years. I couldn't put the book down, and read through it in about three days. What most impressed me this time was the author's comprehensive knowledge of the Middle-Eastern mentality, and his intimate portrayal of King Farouk, Nasser, and Sadat--the author having not only lived in Cairo, but having met personally these three historical figures. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Egypt, or who plans to travel to Egypt. My only other comment is that most Egyptian women would not be behaving as does the main female character in this novel, but they would think as she does.
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on 9 September 1999
I read this book a few times in the space of a few years...and each time I couldn't put it down. Noel Barber has a talent of combining events and facts with a passionate love story...He paints a fascinating picture of two different societes in a time of violent change . Its an exotic love story set in Egypt from 1919 through to World War II... You have to read it...
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on 23 May 2001
For anyone who has visited Cairo. this brilliant story by the late Noel Barber evokes all the magic and mystery of that great city in the early part of the twentieth-century. It is a story that quite simply comes to life before your eyes. One of those books that will last as long as truly elegant stories continue to be read, and indeed a work that deserves more than the five stars allow. Perhaps Amazon should introduce a new grading system!
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on 18 October 1999
A Woman of Cairo deserves more than five crowns. It took me only two days to finsih this book when I first read it when it was published in the mid-eighties and I've just finished rereading it for probably the fifth time. This is a great story of star-struck lovers in a magestic but politically turbulent country. Noel Barber knew how to weave a fantastic love story whose characters are so lively they're about to jump out of the pages. The setting is a great country with magestic civilisation. I've read all Noel Barber's books. This is his best by far. It's a pitty his dead. We'll no longer have such excellent stories set against historical backgrounds. If you can find this book, make sure you get it. It's a grrrrreat read. I assure you, you will not be disappointed. The only disappointment you'll have will be when you find yourself reading the two sad words "The End".
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on 13 November 2012
I came across this novel by accident and was attracted simply by the mention of "Cairo" in the title. It proved to be an enthralling story of the pot-boiler variety, with lots of sex and intrigue that may be enough for most readers.

What I valued was the detailed historical picture of a long period of time in Cairo, with political events and personalities described in a way that brought them to life and presented a new point of view.

However throughout the book I had a constant feeling of discomfort, if not disgust, at the appalling amorality -- not only immorality -- that the author attributes to the upper-class British colonials who are the main characters. It seems that there is no nothing too despicable for them to explain away or simply ignore. Their delinquencies include turning a blind eye to premeditated murder, incest, unethical and illegal acts, diplomatic dishonesty, approval of child labor and indentured servitude, greed, indolence, and self-indulgence as the principle of daily life.

Given the desperate poverty of Egypt, it is sad that not one of the characters ever thinks of trying to contribute to improving the local people's quality of life. The only character with any moral conscience who takes herself off to become a missionary in China is laughed at as a religious nutcase...This moral turpitude extends to the members of Egyptian upper-classes represented in the story, who appear to have modeled British colonial values and behavior, mistaking these for sophistication. Even the American spy does not aspire to any higher standard of behavior, although as a spy one maybe he could not be expected to. It is a relief to find that at least the Egyptian revolutionary leaders demonstrate some desire to improve the status quo by driving the colonials out of their country. What an irony that the two most corrupt protagonists decide to stay in Cairo....

Of course it is to the author's great credit that he has created characters who are so real that one actually feels intense dislike for them. Their so-called "sufferings" appear unworthy of sympathy, all except for the two poor children who die. Perhaps it is the author's genius that he is able to depict the depravity of colonialism in such stark colors while still holding the reader's attention with a soap opera story of two families whose lives are permanently intertwined.

In general I enjoyed the book as a well-written story with evocative descriptions of Egypt, informative historical context, and interesting episodic events spinning around the two families. I just wish there had been ONE character that I might have respected or liked. I am not sure I could stand to read this book a second time!
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on 7 September 2015
I read Noël Barber years ago when I was much younger and when I bought my Kindle decided to buy them all (apart from Farewell to France, more of that later) to re-read. I definitely read them with a different eye and set of experiences and more historical understanding. Every one of the books is superb. Barber was a journalist before and during the war and lived in the Far East. He knew so much about the era of which he writes, knew many of the people involved in his books, which are part fictional and part fact. I met a very interesting elderly gentleman quite a number of years ago in the Isle of Man who had been a friend of Barber's and he told me so much about him (he had spotted me with Farewell To France under my arm). I was thrilled to be talking to someone who knew Barber and who could put some 'meat' on this author of whom I was so fond and who was obviously something of an expert in this Second World War era. I write this review under the banner of this particular book but it applies to all his books.
Now to Farewell to France - my absolute favourite of Barber's and one of my favourite books of all time - WHY IS IT NOT AVAILABLE ON KINDLE?? It would be lovely to have the whole set and I find reading books difficult in bed now and reading the Kindle so easy. Can someone please tell me why it's not there and please correct this - thank you
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on 3 November 2012
Although I enjoyed the novel, I thought the main set-up was too much like Barber's other Novel "Tanamera". Although set in a different country, the family structures and illicit love affair were too similar. Having said that, the characters come to life, and it held my attention throughout.
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on 10 November 2014
Ok but abit long winded. I`ve got 10% through and have sort of given up for the time being...........very similar to Tanamera, but still very beautifully written.
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on 20 August 2013
Brilliantly brought back vivid memories of happy years spent in Cairo.....from Zamalek to the Mena House to Sakara to Groppi's to riding at the pyramids..
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on 26 May 2014
I had read this book twenty something years ago and lost track of it. Had to get it again. Great story that puts you right in the middle of Cairo. It is very well written: you are in Cairo, you can see the places and even smell the odors. Another great book from Noel Barber. I have recommended this book many, many times and always got excellent feed back from my friends. Makes a great gift.
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