Here's a book that I finished last week for February's Biblioholics Anonymous gathering. It was quite an enjoyable read!
Palace Walk may seem like an antiquated throw-back to the great Victorian novels of old, with its brilliant evocation of a faraway setting and its exotic characters. Yet it tells a compelling story -- that of Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, respected middle-class merchant to friends and acquaintances, but fiery-tempered patriarch to his own family. The novel, which is actually Book One of Mahfouz's "Cairo Trilogy" and is set in Egypt just after WWI, centers around al-Jawad, a highly traditional husband and father who maintains strict control over his family by way of the Qur'an while joyously seeking the pleasures of nightly trysts and carousing with friends. When his subserviant wife Amina dares to leave the house one day during his absence to visit a local shrine, she is involved in an accident that she cannot hide from her husband (and his fierce temper). One by one, wife and children must cope with the father's temper and hypocrisy as the novel takes us through marriage ceremonies, British occupation, and even family tragedy.