Thank you to Agora Books for inviting me to be a part of this book’s blog tour.
Before I dive into my review for this book, let’s give you a little blurb of this novel by Carol Cooper:
‘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.
Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s The Girls from Alexandria is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.
I’m not even sure how to classify this book. Is it a historical fiction? A mystery? A thriller? It’s so dynamic and it’s ever-shifting that it’s difficult to assign it just one genre. The novel leaps between two different perspectives – present day in the UK, and past memories mostly taking place in Alexandria, Egypt. The author was clearly taking off her own experience as a youth who grew up in Alexandria as well, and I felt like I could taste every taste, smell every smell, and breathe the air of the desert with every memory I read.
They’re packed full vivid and specific moments and memories, with Arabic and French words thrown in. The “then” chapters were, without question, my favourite to be immersed in. Though I will be quite honest – the ever-changing dates (1953, then 1956, then 1954 for example) really threw me off. Later, the timeline became more consistent.
I’m terrible with dates, and trying to keep up with where exactly in the timeline this event took place was difficult for me. Though that may have been done on purpose, because Nadia is an older woman who is losing her memory – perhaps this is how her memories also return to her; in fleeting glances. As such, there were a few “memories” that were just … interesting, or random in content. And didn’t seem to fit in with the overall story.
I was mostly captivated by the memories in this story (in the NOW timeline, old people losing their memory – and people disregarding their thoughts and ideas – hurt my heart). Though they included a lot of telling and not showing, I didn’t take this as a negative as I felt as though I was a part of Nadia’s world (and Carol’s youthful experiences). I also loved Nadia’s young adult experiences – super interesting, super captivating, super valuable to the overall story.
To be quite frank, there was a point during the first half where, though I was interested in the story being told to me, I wasn’t immersed in how the story was developing and got a little bored. I had to take a break before I picked it up again, just in time for things to take a grand turn and the excitement of finding out the secrets of Simone’s whereabouts began to trickle in. This book certainly had a climax I did not expect.
Without saying too much else in order to ensure readers enjoy the experience of reading this novel, I liked this book more than I expected. And I loved the postcards that Agora books included with the blog tour — too clever!
I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Would you give this book a read?