— By: Alexandra Kinias
In the 2000s, the suicide of two Egyptian citizens in London shocked both the Egyptian community in the British capital and those living thousands of miles away back home. The most traumatic was the suicide of Soad Hosny, the diva, beloved by millions all over the Middle East. The second was of Ashraf Marawan, the prompt businessman and son-in-law of the late president Nasser of Egypt. While Scotland Yard investigations ruled both cases as suicides, a lot of conspiracy theories were weaved by Egyptians that the deceased were both murdered. Speculations over the reasons of these crimes covered a wide spectrum, but nothing was definitive. Along those lines Hisham El Kheshen structured his fourth novel, “Adam Al Masry.”
The novel opens with a dramatic scene that takes place in the waiting room of a London hospital. In this scene, readers are introduced to the main characters, gathered in anticipation for a miracle to save an anonymous person. And when the doctor announces his death, the narrator describes the sadness and shock of those whom the deceased had touched their lives, one way or another. The scene culminates with the narrator’s revelation that the deceased was in fact murdered by one of those who stood in the hospital’s waiting room mourning him. But even with a murder in its opening scene, El Kheshen’s book is not an Agatha Christie’s suspense novel. The character driven and fast pace thriller also conveyed an interesting plot, adorned with adequate amounts of intimacy.
London is where the story unfolds. The back-stories of some of the characters were quite familiar at the time when I was growing up in the seventies. Back then it was quite fashionable for young people to travel to the UK to work during the summer vacations. And as El Kheshen depicted in the novel, London at that time was a summer destination and a business hub to wealthy Arabs. Even though the novel takes place in the present, El Kheshen captured the essence of this era with proficiency.
“Adam Al Masry” is avery well written novel with events intricately woven like a spider’s web. From the first scene I was attracted to the elegance of the language which El Kheshen mastered. I enjoyed the novel structure, characters, and the plot. And as the story unfolds, I was reminded over and again why I enjoy reading. The novel explores the intertwined lives of expatriates living in Western societies and how they are united in their adoptive countries by their common backgrounds.
El Kheshen offered us a glimpse inside the souls of his characters that he skilfully dissected and exposed its complexity and conflicts. He ended the scenes with chilling statements that raised our curiosity to keep turning the pages to learn more. And as the secrets were revealed, and the personalities unraveled, the suspense escalated until the pieces of the puzzle fell in place.
Together with his meticulous attention to details, El Kheshen also introduced many controversial subjects, still considered a taboo. Discrimination against the Copts in the work force, euthanasia, human rights, women’s treatment in misogynist societies and global terrorism were among these issues.
Reading “Adam Al Masry” was similar to riding on an emotional roller-coaster. It covered a wide range of human emotions and needs. Readers will relate to the novel emotionally, one way or another. I highly recommend it to.