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.
"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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Rated of 5
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 of 5
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 of 5
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.
Rated of 5
Zonetta G. (Winter Springs, FL)
City of the Sun
The author introduces the reader to a segment of WWII that was unfamiliar to me. She is obviously extremely knowledgeable and passionate about Egypt and its peoples and the conflicting ideologies of the various factions, and the Jews of Egypt. While her basic premise and plot were intriguing, I found the development of her main characters a little weak--as if written for a younger audience. I was not as invested in the main couple as I would liked to have to been. Their relationship was a little forced unbelievable. The last quarter of the book was much more exciting, even though a little confusing with all the various characters. The book does, however, inspire an interest to learn more about the North African Theater of WWII.
Rated of 5
Harriette K. (Weston, FL)
City of the Sun
A family consisting of father, brother Erik and sister Maya flee Nazi Germany and find themselves in Cairo as the war is being fought in North Africa. It is 1942 and the war is very close to Egypt. Erik is a scientist with knowledge of the development of atomic weaponry. They are taken in by a Jewish family that has deep roots in Egypt. At the same time, a Nazi spy is looking for the scientist so that the Nazis can use his knowledge and an American journalist who wants to rescue the scientist and send him to the U.S. so that he can help them work on the atomic bomb. Nobody knows the true role of anyone else in this plot, and, if that isn't enough, a romance is thrown into the mix for good measure. This is a very well paced tale and although the reader knows everything, it makes for a very good, fast read. We also get a glimpse into the life of Jews in Egypt at this time. The chronology might not be exact, but that's okay, too. I certainly recommend it as a nice, fast paced thriller.
Rated of 5
Tilli F. (Florence, MA)
A good read
I was at first put off by the colloquial style of the author but then got into the story. It is interesting because of the setting. Egypt during the second world war is something I knew nothing about, and the mixture of Egyptians, Arabs, English and Americans, and the power struggles between and among these groups is at once confusing but intriguing. And, of course the Jews trying again to escape. Parts of the story are emotionally riveting, but for the most part the author does not seem to feel the tensions of the environment she has created. All in all, a good read, not a great one.
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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