Becky H. (Chicago, IL)
CITY OF THE SUN by Juliana Maio
This book started as a good, well thought out war time spy thriller with a little romance thrown in. Then three fourth of the way through a couple of needless hot and heavy sex scenes appeared that seemed out of character for Maya and unnecessary for the story line. Then the ending just got unbelievable. It seemed as though the author ran out of steam and did a quick and dirty ending with coincidence and unreal situations abounding.
The characters – Maya, a Jewish refugee trying to get to Palestine with her scientist brother; Mickey, an American newspaperman turned spy; Kesner, a German spy looking for the brother, and a host of minor characters - were well fleshed out with clear voices and actions. A number of historical persons and organizations played minor parts (Anwar Sadat, King Farouk, the Muslim Brotherhood) appearing realistically as needed for the plot. Cairo in 1941, festering with a desire for independence and drowning in refugees and foreign soldiers, was a great setting for the story line. It is too bad the ending was so unsatisfying.
I enjoyed the book as a whole but not the ending.
Rebecca R. (Las Vegas, NV)
An Intriguing Tale !
I loved this book and can envision it as a movie. While wartime stories may not strike some as unique, this book's setting and narrator's alternating perspectives combine for something new. The plot pulled me into the World War II Egyptian setting right away and kept me interested. Sometimes when I vacillate between rating a book a 4 or a 5, I have to remember that it is books like this one which make the higher 5 rating easy. As I read, I found myself making notes of things I wanted to research in greater depth. I am so glad to have had an opportunity to receive this book on BookBrowse as I'm not sure it would have caught my eye otherwise.
Kenneth T. (Houston, TX)
City of the Sun a bit cloudy
City of the Sun, is the first book from Juliana Maio, an Egyptian ex-pat who grew up in Paris and has lived in California since college. Her story is part history of Jewish exile, internecine rivalry within Cairo's pre-WWll Jewish community as well as the political and military machinations of Egypt, Great Britain and the US. All the while a cat and mouse game of Spy vs. Spy goes on. A lot of material for a first time author even with one with the Bona Fides of Ms. Maio. Intriguing plot, engaging femme fatale and enough real life characters to hold our interests. My only complaint is that she relies a bit too much on somewhat precious dialog cliches presumably to set the action in the right time period. It didn't quite strike a strong chord with me, but I can see the appeal to history buffs, WWll aficionados, and people trying to understand some of the roots of today's Mideast political problems.
Amy W. (Annapolis, MD)
Did not live up to potential
I had very high hopes for this novel. Having visited Egypt a decade ago I really fell in love with the country and could vividly picture the cities described in the book. I also love historical fiction and am especially interested in the WWII era. Unfortunately, this book fell short. Billed as a spy novel set against a dramatic backdrop of Egypt in WWII before America entered the war with a love story thrown in to tie it all together the novel didn't really come together for me. All three portions were just ok. I found it hard to believe that the scientist they were looking for was so difficult to be found- but just happened to be the brother of the love interest unbeknown to Mickey was too coincidental. The story also was tied together too neatly to be believable for me.
On the plus side I think the author did a good job of describing the political situation in Egypt during that time period. I think if she had developed the story a bit more the book would have been better. I did enjoy the book and will pass it on to my friends but I was hoping for a novel with more depth.
Helen M. (Petaluma, CA)
City of the Sun
It would be difficult for me to recommend this book generally. Who might enjoy it are people who love historical fiction about both WWII and the middle east. The city of the Sun is Cairo, the time is 1941. The players I found confusing. Many religious factions and many nations all have a stake in the world events occurring. It was difficult for me to keep them straight as the history of this part of the world is not familiar to me.
The mystery and romance part of the book was too predictable. For that reason I gave the book an average rating.