Ruby is a rebellious teenager who runs away from home in England to visit her grandmother in Cairo. She has basically no relationship with her grandmother, but is desperate to leave and try something new. Showing up on the doorstep of her grandmother, the manservent Mamdooh is none too pleased to see her. She eventually convinces her way in and finds Iris, her grandmother, who is old, ailing, and struggling to remember her past. Ruby offers to help Iris document her history so that it is not forgotten and Iris can't pass that up.
Iris came of age in Cairo during WWII. She fell in love with a soldier and got engaged, working as a secretary to the British government. It was times of high stress but lots of partying and lots of love. People did things quickly for fear that war would wipe out everything.
As Ruby pieces together her grandmother's past, she also finds her own love story in Cairo. She starts to fall for the brother of the taxi driver that took her from the airport to Iris' house. This boy shows her around the city and she starts to love both Cairo and him.
This was a great coming of age story from two different generation's perspective. We learn about Iris' journey to adulthood during the war and we see Ruby's as she grows up in Cairo. Ruby is a believable teenager, starting off a little annoying but coming in to her own. I'm not sure I ever really understand her relationship with her mom, or her mom's relationship with Iris. They tried to flush out the latter in the book but it was a fairly short conversation near the end of the book and not really sufficient for me to understand or believe it.
The event that finally brings everyone together seemed a bit drastic but I guess typical to a coming of age fictional story. I've been having bad luck with books recently, unable to get through a few of them before giving up, so I was happy to be able to easily get through this one.
First Line: "I remember"