What can I say about The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany? Well, it certainly kept me turning pages.
Set in a once luxurious ten storey apartment/office building in Cairo, we follow the lives of some of its residents. A soap opera on paper, there’s plenty of sex, violence, corruption and radicalisation; which in my opinion – were all handled sensitively whilst being kept true-to-life.
It was well written, although, a lot of reviews for this story mention its humour…I must have missed this as I don’t remember laughing at all. That doesn’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy it, because there definitely was something that kept me reading; I just didn’t find it funny.
I did, however, find myself largely pre-occupied with a feeling of injustice at the way women, homosexuals and the poor were treated in the story and see it as a reflection for how they are still regarded in Egyptian culture today. Which (although not of any use to anyone) made me shout a fair few expletives at the pages on more than one occasion. Inequality was absolutely everywhere and many of the characters had harrowing stories to tell alongside it. I kept reading because I wanted those oppressed characters to get the endings they deserved; but sadly, as in life, this was not to be for all of them.
Now, I know nothing about the author of this book and I could be completely mislead about this but, I had the feeling that the story he was telling is not a reflection of his own opinions towards women, homosexuals and the poor; quite the opposite. It felt as though this story was just that, a story that he felt he had to tell, to show the rest of the world that these kind of things are still happening today. It seemed like somewhere in the background Alaa Al Aswany was routing for the underdog and really wished for them to go on and lead happy lives, even if that’s not the way it turned out for all. But, as I said, I could be wrong about that.
Would I recommend the book? I’d say yes, to those who enjoy reading about different cultures and want to get behind the scenes of what it’s really like to be Egyptian. Just don’t go expecting pyramids; there aren’t any.
What I’m reading next: The Lady with the Sun Lamp by Jean A Rees
Until next time.