When 19 year old Ruby decides that she has had enough of her life in London, she runs away to her grandmother Iris’s home in Cairo. As Ruby falls in love with Cairo, Iris is in ill health and fears that she is losing her memories of wartime Cairo and the soldier she fell in love with, who lost his life in World War II. As we learn the story of Iris and Xan Molyneaux, we also see Ruby growing up, forming a relationship of her own and bonding with her grandmother.
I really enjoyed this book. As well as being a retrospective love story (which is wonderfully told), it is also a story of Ruby’s own journey from a troubled and thoughtless teenager, to an intelligent and compassionate young woman. The story deals with love and heartbreak, fear and memory, and in particular, how the memory of one certain time in life, can affect all the times that come after it.
Cairo is vividly brought to life – both in the modern day and during World War II – and it was very easy to imagine how Ruby felt discovering the city for the first time. Reading the book made me want to visit there myself.
Although the love story between Iris and Xan is passionate and beautifully told, it is never cheesy or overly sentimental.
All of the characters were entirely believable – more so for not being perfect – and the writing is fantastic. I am determined to seek out more by this author.