Sunday, 7 March 2010

ARC Review: Into Suez - Stevie Davies

Into Suez by Stevie Davies

Genre: Fiction
Pages: 448
Publication date: March 8th 2010

The year is 1949: Great Britain, victorious but bankrupt after WWII, attempts to reassert itself as an Imperial power by its military presence in the Suez Canal zone. Egypt's struggle against its British occupiers has some implicit truths to tell about the recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. When Israel declares its statehood and drives out the Arab population, Joe, an RAF sergeant, his wife Ailsa and daughter Nia leave Wales for Egypt.

Joe is the everyday working man, in whom racism and misogyny become a sickness. Alisa, an independent, free thinking woman, yearns to explore her new homeland of Egypt. It's here that she meets the exotic Mona, who opens Ailsa's eyes to what lies beyond the horizon. In a world of terrorism and political struggle, her friendship with Mona and an act of murder pitch the happily married couple into tragedy.

Nia, looking back in late middle age, follows in her parents' wake to sail the Suez Canal. On this journey Nia will face difficult life lessons about love and betrayal.

I read that the author was longlisted for the Booker prize and I understand why. She is a great writer, and such a great story teller.

This book is about Ailsa  who leaves England with her young daughter Nia to go to Egypt to be with her husband. The troubles start at once at the ship where she meets Mona, an officers wife. They are not supposed to friends because of their husbands ranks. But there is deep friendship and love between them, and even though Ailsa tries to stay away in Egypt in the end she cannot. Egypt that is in turmoil, the Egyptians wants the invaders out, and terrorism and murder is part of the day.

In the middle of this story there is another story, Nia later in life who wants to knwo what really happened in Egypt and she goes back to find out more about her mother and father.

First of all it is so hard to understand why everyone frowned upon Ailsa being friends with Mona, Joe was really horrified. It all had to do with rank, and I find it rather silly but that was life back then. Mona and her husband would have loved to be friends with them. But Joe was a regular soldier and he knew his place. He also didn't liek intellectuals, he had grown up a poor miner in Wales and had little education. He didn't take too kindly to Ailsa reading either.

But I did understand Joe, and he was a great guy, at first. Then came jealousy and doubt and the trouble that was Egypt. I liked Ailsa too, she was strong and she so wanted to knwo more about Egypt all while Joe looked down upon everything there. Racism was clear as day in this book, but it isn't as easy as it looks. Yes the white looked down upon the Egyptians and called them names, but the Egyptians in turn looked down upon the black population and so on.

Politics did have an importance here, it was the last days of the British Empire in Egypt, the Suez Crisis, and it also dealt with Israel-Palestine since Mona was a Palestine refugee. Though here I wished they would have looked more at both sides, it was a bit one sided in one way. When they spoke of the refugee camps they never mentioned the unwillingness of the neighboring countries to take them in. But I shall not go in to politics no, that is one hot topic I do not want to touch, and Davies does make a good job and looking at things from every angle at least once.

This was a good  book that had me turning the page and wondering how it all would play out. Since I knew from the start that Joe would die in Egypt and I had a pretty good idea how since the situation was like it was. But then there was the fact that Ailsa was a certain way after she came back to Wales and I wondered why that was so. Nia remembered her mother one way, a way that I could not understand reading the book from Ailsas POV. But it became clear later on.

Then there is the friendship between Ailsa and Mona, am I supposed to see more, or is it my imagination? They like each other so much, they never do anything, but it does feel like there is something more between them. Something that can never be.

I liked this book, I liked to see how it was in Egypt, the politics, the life, the friendship between Mona and Ailsa, normal life was an army wife, the love between husband and wife, and Nia's sharp eye. A well-written book about a heavy topic sometimes. And the eternal question, what happened?

Blodeuedd's Cover Corner: Historical and fiction like
Reason for Reading: Seems the publisher sent it to me
Final thoughts: I liked it.


  1. Very good review Blodeuedd!!! I am glad that you liked it, but did you love it??
    Have a great weekend!

  2. I think the only reading I've done even vaguely related to this would be the Amelia Peabody novels...

  3. Love your review, sounds like an interesting read!

  4. Cool review Blo..

    I think some of the angst between Joe and Ailsa would be rank as you said - but the time was not condusive to that sort of relation/friendship, there was a definite thing "about the better"..

    Did the author reflect any of the custom of the background (Egypt) or was it centered around the family that the book was about?...


  5. WOW...a WWll story! WOW...

    This is a great review! This sounds like a different book!


  6. Rather like the sound of this, too!

    Hope you had a great weekend.


  7. Hi Cecile
    I hate to say no I didn't love it but I have to say it. I seldom love. I actually never love, I have only loved 2 books. I can really really like a book, I can worship the language and the writer (Zafon *sighs* :) But love, no I do not love easily or say it.

    What is left is, she is a great writer, the text flowed with such ease and she created a wonderful story with some many layers

    Hm dunno who that is. Must google ;)

  8. Thanks Marissa
    I did like it, I do enjoy some great fiction now and again

    What a time it must have been. You could not spend time with your "betters" everyone frowned upon it. Rank and class. What an era.

    There was a lot about Egypt but it was mostly political, what was happening and why. There was this black cloud hanging over the book constantly

  9. Great review. I really like the sound of this one.

  10. Interesting book you've read here. I like to read the occasional Booker Prize nominee myself, but this one slipped from my radar ;)
    Wonderful review and thanks for bringing it to my attention, hon!

  11. Hi Hawk
    I do like to mix my genres :D

    Aye it was a good one!

  12. Thanks Vivienne
    I did enjoy it, she is a great writer

    You're welcome!
    I do like to read them myself too now and again, I always discover something new and nice

  13. Sounds like a wonderful book, if a little too heavy for me.

  14. Great review! The book sounds interesting.

  15. this sounds good, great review!
    it sounds like theres a great storyline and characters here.

  16. I don't often read historical fiction, but this book sounds fabulous! Great review!

  17. Another thoughtful review. Oh and I love the new Waterhouse.
    A lovely week to you.
    Warm regards,

  18. Hi B:

    Great review, this sounds like and interesting story, and complex. You always review such a great cross section of books B.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  19. Carol,
    I wouldn't say that, yes a lot of heavy things but she didn't dwell on things

    Thanks Yvonne
    It was a sure treat

    There is, like Joe, I like him, and after time he changes before my eyes

  20. Thank you Simone
    You know me, I starved when I didn't have my pre-raphaelite art as a banner

    Lol, I know, I think it comes from me not finding enough books to read when younger so I just read everything!

  21. I love it when a story encompasses much more than the here and now with a romance. I enjoyed reading your review of it Blodeuedd :)

  22. Thanks leontine
    I was pleasantly surprised by it, and I loved that she used Welsh words now and again ,my weakness

  23. Great review Linda. I like the scene of the story too, something different.

  24. Jenny
    That it was, it is good to read something like this too

  25. sounds like some interesting places to visit within the pages of this one!

  26. You've sold me on this one! I hope it's okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  27. Staci,
    Egypt in those days, no, but now oh yes :D Would love to see the pyramids

    Of course :D

  28. An interesting review. It is a pity that you avoid the political dimension though for "Into Suez" is a deeply political novel. The novel extends Davies' "Boy Blue" and "The Arms and the Girl", taking the Suez crisis as a symbol for the evil channelled by war. I enjoyed your review.

  29. It it not that I avoid it, I just avoid talking about it here. I do not wanna get into a political argument with anyone.

    Glad you enjoyed it though :)



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