Friday, 5 July 2019

Tahrir by Vladimir Volya

Tahrir by Vladimir Volya
Self published on the 17th May 2016.

One of my 2019 COYER Summer Hunt reads

How I got this book:
Downloaded as part of a Smashwords promotion

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Tahrir” is a historical novel about Egyptian revolution. It’s a story about people who strive for changes and protest against the authorities. Set in the midst of the struggle to overthrow Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak, it speaks not just of the struggle for freedom, but of the many individual and very different lives that united to enable it.

The love story is a pivotal part of the book. The love affair between a woman, who joins the revolution and is swept away by ideas to change the world, and a man, who is a firm believer in peaceful and evolutionary solutions to social conflicts, is tested by a turbulent sequence of events. In order to be coupled, they have to make a choice – do they sacrifice their love or their ideals?

Vivid descriptions of Egyptian nature, architecture, traditions, the way of life, food, atmosphere and protests allow the reader to submerge into the flavour of this exotic country and be an intrepid traveller, witnessing unprecedented events.

Meticulously researched and exquisitely written, hope and sadness, love and loss are intermingled in this book - a book that will make you laugh, cry and want to take to the streets - a book that will make you question everything you know and everything you hold dear.

Tahrir is very much an indie authored novel in its style, however its story does have a strong sense of witnessed authenticity so, overall, I found the book to be a worthwhile read. Volya gives readers a good sense of the confusion and uncertainty in Cairo during the days of the revolution against Mubarak's regime as well as insights into daily life both before and after the fighting. Following one young Egyptian man, Said, through his prison experiences as a political prisoner is particularly horrifying to read. I remembered similarities in Tahrir here to those in The King Of Taksim Square both in the riot scenes and the way that jubilant protesters set up camps, singing and dancing in the liberated spaces. I would have liked more shading in the prose to add pace and emotional depth to the storytelling. There is little showing and a lot of telling so opportunities add excitement or tension are unfortunately lost.

On a negative note, Volya's characters are fairly flat creations except for Said with whom I was able to empathise. I wondered why three of the four main protagonists we follow were not Egyptians though. Brits Robert and Kate, despite all their protestations of involvement, are little more than colonial voyeurs and the love triangle between Robert, Kate and Russian tourist Alexey swiftly goes beyond tiresome! I wasn't happy either about Volya's inclusion of gratuitous sexual assault scene. Its only purpose seemed to be to punish an independently-minded woman for not choosing a man to 'protect her' (because all women must need a man to protect them from men!). I think I found more to like in the first half of Tahrir than the later chapters, and I did appreciate gaining insights into this period of Egyptian history.

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  1. It sounds like an interesting subject, but yeah, I think I would be bothered by the same things that bothered you. Still, I would give it a read. The subject matter alone might be enough to keep me reading.

    1. Overall I thought the novel had more good points than bad ones