The Last Watchman of Old Cairo – Book Review

 

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas

ISBN: 0525511946

Published in Paperback on: July 2, 2018

Length: 288 Pages


Thank you to Penguin Random House International for sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacts my opinion. 

In this spellbinding novel, a young man journeys from California to Cairo to unravel centuries-old family secrets.

Joseph, a literature student at Berkeley, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father. One day, a mysterious package arrives on his doorstep, pulling him into a mesmerizing adventure to uncover the tangled history that binds the two sides of his family. For generations, the men of the al-Raqb family have served as watchmen of the storied Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary–perhaps magical–Ezra Scroll. The story of Joseph’s family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 depart their hallowed Cambridge halls on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.

The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a moving page-turner of a novel from acclaimed storyteller Michael David Lukas. This tightly woven multigenerational tale illuminates the tensions that have torn communities apart and the unlikely forces–potent magic, forbidden love–that boldly attempt to bridge that divide.


My Thoughts: This book was beyond beautiful. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but at the end I came out feeling like something was added within my heart. The story is told from three different points of view, and they’re somewhat loosely related to one another, you discover in the end how it all ties together nicely.

Out of the three points of view my least favourite was actually Joseph. It felt like he was holding everything and everyone an arms length away, and because this is how he comes across, it was hard to connect to him. I really loved Ali’s point of view. It was engaging and beautiful. His was the story that really grabbed me and made me fall in love with the story and setting.

This book is beautiful but it also feels a bit rushed. An idea of this nature feels like it should be really fleshed out, and it really could have been. Maybe then I would have liked Joseph and the sisters points of view a little more. The writing was lovely, but again missing just a little spark to really hook the reader.

I would still recommend this book to any historical fiction lovers. It’s now available in paperback internationally.

I gave this four out of five metal horns!

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Between Shades of Gray – Book Review

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This book has nothing to do with that shamble of a series called 50 Shades of Awful. This is an exceptional book telling a horrifying story. One that seems to be forgotten when people talk about the atrocities that occurred during World War II.

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Between Shades of Gray starts off in 1941 and follows Lina Vilkas a 15-year-old girl who lives in Lithuania and somehow ends up on Stalin’s extermination list. She gets sent to a prison camp all the way in Siberia where she’s faced with horrors we could never even begin to imagine. She takes risks to save her family and herself, doing anything possible to simply survive.

Between Shades of Gray Book Review

This book had me hooked before I even opened it. The synopsis was enough to get me to pick it up. It is beautifully written but extremely sad read. Lina is a wonderful and strong character. Going into this historical fiction story I didn’t know much about what the Soviets had done during World War II, this story while a fictional tale, paints a picture of the horrors people went through at the hands of the Soviets.

This is a young adult novel that does not read like one. I say that because it gets very dark, and it does not hold back from sharing the events that this family goes through. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story because I don’t always read historical fiction, but this made me want to read a lot more of it. There’s a specific line that I have seen many people use when they talk about this book, but it is the one line that lets you imagine where the book goes.

 

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

 This line tears my heart apart. These are the things you can expect from this story. Using their last bits of their past, last few things they own to continue to survive.

I want to give you a very eloquent review, one where I delve into characterization, the plot, and everything else that normal book reviewers dive into, but I just can’t. All I can say about this book is that it made me feel so many emotions at the same time, mostly a mix of rage and sadness at the things happening to our main character, her family, and her friends.

I think if there were a book that needs to be read this year, this would be it. It brings to light a lot of issues that get tossed into the background about World War II. There are many stories that have been silenced for so long, and this screamed one of those tales at the very top of its lungs. I was left with a sense of loss myself after finishing it. It is in no way a light hearted read, and people should know going in that you are in for a rough ride, but its an incredible book that deserves more attention.

This book received 5 out 5 Metalhorns from me!!

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