When 19 year old Ruby decides that she has had enough of her life in London, she runs away to her grandmother Iris’s home in Cairo. As Ruby falls in love with Cairo, Iris is in ill health, and fears that she is losing her memories of wartime Egypt and the soldier she fell in love with, who lost his life in World War II. As we learn the story of Iris and Xan Molyneaux, we also see Ruby growing up, forming a relationship of her own, and bonding with her grandmother.
I really enjoyed this book. As well as being a retrospective love story (which is wonderfully told), it is also a story of Ruby’s journey, from a troubled and thoughtless teenager, to an intelligent and compassionate young woman. The story deals with love and heartbreak, fear and memories, and in particular, how the memory of a certain time in life can affect all that comes after it.
Cairo is vividly brought to life – both in the modern day, and during World War II. It was very easy to imagine how Ruby felt when discovering the city for the first time – while making a parallel journey in which she discovered much about herself. Reading the book made me want to visit Egypt for myself.
The love story between Iris and Xan is passionate and beautifully told, and never spills over into over-sentimentality or ‘cheesiness’.
All of the characters were entirely believable – more so for not being perfect. They were well fleshed out and easy to invest emotion in. The writing is beautiful and flowed easily. I will definitely be seeking out further work by this author.