The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A handful of intertwining stories all passing through The Yacoubian Building in downtown Cairo, I read this in one plane trip from Texas to SC. I couldn't put it down! And not just for the sexual content, which I'm sure is the reason half the people who read this pick it up. Controversial in Egypt? Oh my! It has interesting insight into relationships of all kinds - homosexual men in a society that may look the other way if they like you enough, women who marry to support their families, and the rights of children after the death of a parent.
"At rare and exceptional moments Souad Gaber appears as she really is. A look suddenly flashes from her eyes like a spark and her face recovers its original appearance, exactly as an actor returns to his own character on finishing a role, takes off his costume, and wipes the makeup off his face. On such occasions, a serious, slowly awakening look suggestive of a certain degree of hardness and determination appears on Souad's face and reveals her true nature... that spark will flash in her eyes confirming that her mind never stops working, even in the heat of passion."
In an interesting conversation about patriotism:
"A person has to love his country because his country is his mother. Does anyone hate his mother?"
(I'd say that's a pretty loaded question.)