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Cairo in the War: 1939-45 Paperback – 24 Oct 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (24 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848548842
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848548848
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

'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

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm surprised no-one has written a review of Artemis Cooper's book before this. It's the only connected survey of this fascinating period, with details on just about everything from King Farouk and the formidable Princess Shevekiar to the British army and the Berka (the infamous red light district). There's also plenty on Pastroudi's and the famous Shepheard's hotel. If you've read Olivia Manning or seen The English Patient, this will paint the broader picture. The remarkable thing about this book is the cast of hundreds of British visitors during the war, from writers to entertainers (like No‘l Coward) and, of course, Winston Churchill. It's the sort of non-fiction work that you find you can't put down.
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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 populations 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, thus exercising considerable fascination for the reader and historian alike.
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Sorry I'm still reading....interesting so far
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A good view on what really happened without the nationalist spin from either side.
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Format: Paperback
This book doesn't quite do what its title suggests. It does give a very readable account of how the Second World War affected Cairo (and, to some extent, the rest of Egypt), but only from the viewpoint of the various ex-pat communities - particularly the British - and the Egyptian elite. From 1914 onwards, the relationship between Britain and Egypt was a complicated one; although not technically part of the Empire, the British seem to have treated it as such, and the Egyptians naturally bridled at this. When WW2 started, this distrust led to all sorts of problems throughout the war, leading ultimately to British expulsion from the country after the war.
This book gives a straightforward account of events; concentrating understandably on the period of the Desert War. The changing military and political situation are handled well, and there is much about the bungling and rivalries that always seem to appear in such situations, as well as the machinations around the palace of King Farouk.
My one criticism is that there is nothing much about the majority of the population of Cairo (or Egypt). A lot of the material is about the social and cultural world of ex-pat Cairo; interesting as this is, it was a very narrow world and the author seemed more comfortable with this material than with some of the more complex issues going on elsewhere.
*You can read the full version of this review on my blog; there is a link on my profile page*
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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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I should just like to point out that, although well written, it is about officers, and of those the group that interests Ms. Cooper most are the ones with double-barelled names or are famous. We learn nothing of the ordinary soldiers and what they actually did on leave or working in Cairo. For that you need to read Len Deighton's City Of Gold. Strangely she makes no mention of Elizabeth David even though she's written a biography of the lady.
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