I have read three novels by Charlotte Jay a.k.a. Geraldine Halls before this one, and I enjoyed this one the absolute least. I am afraid that, for me, large parts of the book were just boring. There were a lot of characters introduced, and for many of them, lengthy amounts of background given. There are also a lot of places where Jay goes on for a couple pages at a time explaining what’s going on politically and all the characters’ political views, which just seemed to stall and delay the action. I don’t know why, but I was just bored to tears by most of that. I had to keep going back to the beginning of paragraphs because I would realize I didn’t know what I was reading, and I didn’t much care about the shadowy political figures whom we never actually see.
To me, the whole book seemed like a lot of fuss for nothing. I was really disappointed in the ending. There’s a revolution that lasts about five minutes, and then everybody’s okay, and everyone who gets arrested for revolting gets released, and everyone’s free to do it all over again. And then there’s the weird happily-ever-after, or at least for now, although we have Sarah’s promise to Nadea early in the book that the next man she chooses to get into a relationship with, she is going to marry, no matter what. To me, that doesn’t seem like a very good idea, but I don’t really care. I didn’t like Sarah’s character very much by the end of the novel. Really, her character seems to go from three- to two-dimensional pretty soon after the beginning of the novel. She starts out interesting, as a white Christian woman living in this foreign, partly-Muslim country in the 1960s, but it all goes downhill from there. She mostly just goes along with everything that happens to her, and doesn’t really react. She lets things happen around and to her. Aside from initiating the trip to Chakra, she doesn’t do much. Her feeling of floating along, when she is being carried along by the two men who rescue her from Ain Houssaine is extremely apt; that’s basically what she does throughout the whole novel, starting with the bombing at the Suk.
One interesting aspect of the novel is that it portrays the political situation in the Middle East, which seems to have changed very little in the past 50 years. Beirut is still a very European sort of town, with everyone continuing with their everyday lives and enjoying themselves as much as possible, even with things being blown up and shot around them. The Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are still fighting over the same land, and all the Muslim countries hate Israel. The metaphor of revolution being a big ball that cannot be stopped, but only rolled into a different country continues to be applicable, with all the revolutions that have occurred in the past couple years, and the horrible violence going on in Syria right now.