The Man in the White Sharkskin suite is a stunning work, in it's emotional depth against a period of history I knew little about. The author/narrator tells the story of her family, particularly her father, as they thrive in Egypt under King Farouk, then, literally overnight, lose their material possisions, family and promience but not their humanity and dignity when Nassar comes to power. Their 'before' life was vibrant and full materially, but emotionally fraught with tensions of all sort especially between the husband, Leon and the wife, Edith. The author uses the point of view of the youngest member of the family, Loulou who can barely understand what's happening but acts bravely for her father's sake and for his love. The author writes beautifully, and with such poignancy, but never with self pity or malicious anger regarding the family's fall. By the time the family arrives in America, they are completely lost as they stand on the dock watching the big cars go down the West...
This is my favorite book of the year. It combines all of my interests - Jewish history, family struggles, impact of culture, and so much more. The author spent her early years in Egypt and the family was forced out by anti-semitism. While in Egypt, they lived a glamorous life for many years, but with a father whose moods ranged from loving to abusive. From there they entered a generation of poverty. The writing is beautiful. Too often personal memoirs seem to wane 1/2 way through, but this book continued to engage me and I really didn't want it to end.
I was at that reading also, and purchased another copy of the book (my third!) for my daughter. Lagnado's story of her family's incredible history in Egypt and then the heartbreaking exile they endured, ending in Brooklyn where her father, old and seemingly defeated, probably saves her life with one last almost magical invocation of his old powers of persuasion is inspiring and tragic at once. After reading this beautiful book, it's clear where Lagnado's passion as an investigative reporter to expose corruption and the indignities we too often heap upon the elderly was born.
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