Five Books to Read If You Loved Cairo Time

I just saw the brilliant new film, Cairo Time, starring Patricia Clarkson and directed by Canadian Rubba Nadda. It's the story of an American woman who visits Cairo in order to see her husband. He is delayed in the UN-run camp in Gaza where he works and she is left to her own defenses. A man, Tareq, who once worked with her husband helps her to get acclimatized to her new surroundings and this sparks a slow-burning emotional affair between the two.

The contrast between the dynamism of Cairo and the quiet desire between Juliette and Tareq propels this luminescent marvel. Here are five books that pay tribute to the spirit of this film:

1.Late Nights on Air: Yellowknife plays well as foreign territory. The characters have all more of less fled their lives to nurse their wounds in Yellowknife and so there is the same sense of distance from reality. The canoe trip taken intensifies the relations between the characters, none more so than between cantankerous, conflicted host Harry and newcomer Gwen. Quiet, slow burning and just loose enough at the seams.

2.Desert Of the Heart: This is Canadian Jane Rule's 1964 lesbian classic. Evelyn travels to Reno, California to complete residency in order to obtain a divorce from her husband of 15 years. Initially, she is terrified by the emptiness of the desert as she feels it mirrors the emptiness she has felt in her own heart all her married life. The story is very simple - Evelyn meets Ann, they are struck by each other, and healing process begins - but Rule's treatment of the desires of the heart is intelligent and the happy ending is refreshing.
3.Bride Island: This is a (no longer) secret guilty pleasure of mine. I was drawn to it for all the wrong reasons - the sea glass on the cover, the promise of maritime escapism - but Bride Island turned out to be a refreshing story of a former alcoholic, Polly, returning to her family's island home. Polly is wonderfully imperfect and while this is no classic, I identified with her desire to reconnect to her home and to right her (many) wrongs.

4.On Chesil Beach: Ian McEwan's novella is packed with repressed emotion. A young married couple honeymoons on a beach hotel and are confronted by the sudden intimacy that such a union requires. That they must reveal themselves to one another causes great tension. Just as vivid as Cairo Time and just as quietly tragic.

5.The Republic of Love: This is a lovely book, one of my favorites. Carol Shields was indeed a master. Fay and Tom connect with one another but their lives conspire to keep them apart. This story about love and having the courage to inhabit it is heartwarming and perfect dreary day reading. Romantics: prepare to shut yourselves away for a weekend's worth of reading.


Amanda said...

I loved On Chesil Beach, so I'll have to check out Cairo Time.

So I'm working your list backwards.

B.Kienapple said...

Hmm I'm not sure if Bride Island would be your speed, though. :) That's my inner soccer mom coming out. If you liked On Chesil Beach you would probably like Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.


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