City of the Sun: Book summary and reviews of City of the Sun by Juliana Maio

City of the Sun

By Juliana Maio

City of the Sun
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2014,
    380 pages.

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Book Summary

Espionage, love, and power play upon the shifting sands of wartime Cairo

CAIRO, EGYPT 1941. As the Second World War rages, the city known as the 'Paris on the Nile' plays host to an international set who seem more interested in polo matches and swanky nightclubs than the Germans' unrelenting advance across North Africa. Meanwhile, as refugees, soldiers, and spies stream into the city, the Nazis conspire with the emerging Muslim Brotherhood to fuel the Egyptian people's seething resentment against their British overlords.

Ambitious American journalist Mickey Connolly has come to Cairo to report on the true state of the war. Facing expulsion by the British for not playing by their rules, he accepts a deal from the U.S. embassy that allows him to remain in the country. His covert mission: to infiltrate the city's thriving Jewish community and locate a refugee nuclear scientist who could be key to America's new weapons program. But Mickey is not the only one looking for the elusive scientist. A Nazi spy is also desperate to find him - and the race is on. Into this mix an enigmatic young woman appears, a refugee herself. Her fate becomes intertwined with Mickey's, giving rise to a story of passion, entangled commitments, and half-truths.

Deftly blending the romantic noir of the classic film Casablanca with a riveting, suspenseful narrative and vivid historical detail, City of the Sun offers a stunning portrayal of a time and place that was not only pivotal for the war, but also sowed much of the turbulence in today's Middle East.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Romance and characters' personal stories are as important as a political plot, which touches on the fate of the post-WW II world, in this thriller that holds readers' attention to the very end. Maio's research is excellent, and the background it provides for present-day events in the Middle East is fascinating. The novel unfolds at a pleasant pace, the characters are sympathetic and Maio effectively uses three viewpoints to tell her story." - RT Times, 4 stars

War book aficionados will be pleased with this one. Even if you're not a military/history buff, this in-depth story is still one of the most interesting and thrilling reads imaginable... Driven by fascinating characters, this author weaves an amazing tale based on real historical figures. Cairo in the early days of the North African campaigns definitely produced people you love to hate. Well done!" - Suspense Magazine

"The many historical figures lend authenticity, but it is Connolly and Levi's romantic entanglement that drives this satisfying exploration of a key time in western and Middle Eastern relations." - Publishers Weekly

"An ambitious work set against the backdrop of real events, Juliana Maio's City of the Sun provides a fascinating insight into the events that helped shape the forces at play in Egypt and the Middle East today. This book couldn't be more timely." - Reza Aslan, Author of No god but God and Zealot

"Juliana Maio's City of the Sun is a stunning work of historical fiction, capturing the romance, intrigue and danger of Cairo in 1941." - Andrew Nagorski, former Newsweek foreign correspondent and senior editor, and author of Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

"Egyptian born Juliana Maio knows this territory like the palm of her hand, which is where she holds us. City of the Sun weaves a tangled tale of espionage, wartime romance, political intrigue, and action in a city crawling with all four. If you liked Casablanca, this story is for you." - Nicholas Meyer, New York Times Best Seller and Screenplay Academy Award nominee for The Seven Percent Solution; screenwriter, The Human Stain; director of Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

"Juliana Maio's City of the Sun belongs in the 'one percent' of new novels to read, not only because of the way she weaves suspense to keep you turning pages, but because she has married it all to a fascinating point in World War Two history with Middle East setting descriptions that will have you swearing you've been there. The kind of book that turns non-readers into obsessive ones." - Andrew Neiderman, author of The Devil's Advocate

"This is a romantic adventure, rich with spies, Nazis, ever-changing power and international refugees. The reckless events of the story are a distant mirror for the desperate troubles of the Middle East of today. A sexy and dangerous book." - David Freeman, author of One of Us, the adventures of an Englishman in pre-war Egypt

"Maio's detailed research brings alive the ancient city and creates a vibrant setting for her twisting, racing story. This is historical fiction the way it was meant to be enjoyed - and the way it was meant to be written!" - Kelly Durham, author of Berlin Calling and The War Widow.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Judith S. (Binghamton, NY)
A lovely read
Juliana Maio book is an excellent blend of history and romance. It is light. On the other hand it is a reminder of the ravages of war on both individuals and countries. Certainly Egypt is no longer Paris of the Nile. The love story is a blend of fast paced suspense, sophisticated humor of its time and romance. Quite enjoyable. Ms. Maio obviously loves her country. I would read more of her work.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Duane F. (Cape Girardeau, MO)
City of the Sun
I am ashamed to say it took me 3 months to finish this book. It had great promise... WWII, spies, Jewish refuges, love, Egypt and a promise of insight into the current Middle Easter crisis. It just never lived up to its promises. It's biggest fault was it seemed the dialog and character descriptions were geared to a younger audience. The plot had incredible potential, but was not complicated or realistic enough for me. The love story seemed stunted an then suddenly very explicit as though the author thought that perhaps she should throw it in to hold our interest. By the time it was presented, I had lost interest in the characters. The whole story line could have been much more developed. I felt as though the author was afraid to give her readers a real taste of what went in at that time period, location and political environment. Perhaps that she felt we could not handle real fact and it was presented like a fairy tale for middle schoolers. The author has potential... But needs to take into account, "The reason we read fiction based on fact is we wish fact with our fiction."

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by M D Foster
City of the Sun
This book had the makings of a great read. WWII, spies, Jewish refuges, love, Egypt and the promise of I site into the current conflict in the Middle East. All of which I find interesting and intriguing. But alas the character development was not there, the plot never measured up to its promise and the dialog seemed written for a younger audience. I had to really force myself to finish it. It all seemed to be too predictable. Too many lone forces to carry out what should have been a much more complicated plot. Just too simplistic to be believed. The love angle withered, then became too explicit for the level of interactions of the characters. I believe the writer just never really relaxed into her own characters. It took me 3 months to finish it due to several other books which I found far more compelling reads. A great plot which sagged from a lack of character development.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Betty Taylor
Glamour & Espionage in Cairo
I requested this book from NetGalley because it is based on my two favorite reading topis -- the Middle East and Judaism. It is wartime Cairo, 1941. There is a mix of refugees, British soldiers, and spies in Cairo at this time. The Nazis are moving toward northern Africa. Hitler is becoming a bedfellow with the Muslim Brotherhood. Mickey Connolly is in Cairo to report on the current status of the war. However, he is secretly trying to get information on a refugee nuclear scientist (Eric Blumenthal). America wants to build the "big bomb" and Blumenthal could be the key to making that happen. The Nazis are also looking for him. There's romance when Connolly becomes involved with Maya, who unknown to him is Blumenthal's sister. Maio writes the story in such a way that I could easily visualize like in Cairo at that time. Most people are not aware of the intricacies of life in places like Cairo and Istanbul during this time period. There's the elaborate parties, the espionage, the sense of constant danger. Maio captured the atmosphere and made it real for me.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by BJ (Mukwonago, WI)
A New Perspective
I found City of the Sun an enjoyable read especially since historical fiction is not a genre I would typically choose. The story as a mystery intrigued me more than anything to begin with, but as I continued through the book I realized I was being drawn in--I wanted to know more about WWII along with the multiple geographic locations and cultures it affected. Believable fiction and a good first novel, this is definitely one that could be adapted into a film.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Marcy C. (Minneapolis, MN)
City of the Sun
This was an enjoyable book and I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates historical fiction. I have read numerous works of fiction that use WW II as the setting but I have never read one that took place in Northern Africa.

...15 more reader reviews

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Born in Egypt, Juliana Maio was raised in France and formally educated in the United States at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC Hastings College of the Law. An entertainment attorney and writer, she also cofounded Lighthouse Productions, a film and television company. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, film producer Michael Phillips. They have a daughter. Visit her at www.julianamaio.com

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