Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.
Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.
Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.
Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.
What I Thought:
A tin of old postcards hold half a century of secrets in this excellent novel from Carol Cooper. The Girls from Alexandria reminded me very much of Elizabeth is Missing, as Nadia struggles with holes in her memory while trying to find out what happened to her sister Simone over fifty years before.
The book paints two very vivid pictures in its dual timeline and they could not be more different. A young Nadia lives a relatively affluent life in cosmopolitan Alexandria, even in the midst of political upheaval, while the elderly Nadia languishes in an over-stretched hospital, where compassion is hard to come by. This second location is hugely depressing, and you would hope that a lot of the elements were fictionalised to some extent!
Each section of the book set in Egypt is alive with the atmosphere of the late 50s as the pieces of Nadia and Simone’s stories leading up to Simone’s disappearance leave clues that Nadia desperately tries to pick at in her later years and it’s interesting to see her make connections as an adult between things that would never have occurred to a child.
This book is very much character-driven and Nadia is not all that she appears at the beginning of the book. It’s incredibly frustrating to see her trapped in a hospital bed, with the medical staff not even believing that she had a sister in the first place – the vindication when she is able to prove that Simone was real is incredibly rewarding!
I found the sections dealing with the political situation in Egypt fascinating, from Nasser to the Arab Spring, and there was a deep sense of injustice in the treatment of women in Egypt running all through the book – snippets of Nadia and Simone’s lives show their dissatisfaction with that status quo too.
It’s clear in every page of this book that Carol Cooper is writing what she knows, and that gives the book so much extra depth – I highly recommend it.
The Girls from Alexandria is published by Agora Books.
Author Biography: Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author. Born in London, she was only a few months old when her cosmopolitan family took her to live in Egypt. She returned to the UK at eighteen and went to Cambridge University where she studied medicine and her fellow students. On her path to a career in general practice, she worked at supermarket checkouts, typed manuscripts in Russian, and spent years as a hospital doctor.
Following a string of popular health books as well as an award-winning medical textbook, Carol turned to writing fiction. Her first two novels were contemporary tales set in London. Ever a believer in writing what you know, she mined the rich material of her childhood for The Girls from Alexandria.
Carol lives with her husband in Cambridge and Hampstead. She has three grownup sons and three stepchildren.
You can connect with Carol on Twitter.
This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of The Girls from Alexandria. For more reviews and exclusive content, why not check out the other blogs taking part below?
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.