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Inji Amr: To Each Her Own
We are all free to make our own lifestyle choices, experiences and friends, but would you like to read all the elaborate details about someone else's? To Each Her Own, the debut novel by first-time author Inji Amr, prompts readers to ask that question.
Essentially another compilation of short stories, this 76-page-long novel focuses on five young friends, through which she shares with us their mundane and typically Egyptian experiences in different aspects of life, such as work, travelling abroad, cooking and even parking in Tahrir Square.
You can almost imagine the author as someone that you could sit next to on a bus or on a plane: she tells her friends' stories from her perspective, sharing her opinions in a very open, amusing and casual style of writing. The characters are all familiar; and the reader may connect with one or two of them, after all; her characters mostly read as very real members of modern Egyptian society.
Though the style of writing is diverting and sometimes even funny– such as the ongoing joke of calling her hard-handed boss Meryl Streep from The Devil Wears Prada– the flow of the novel is still bumpy at times. The reader may occasionally feel the need to go over a paragraph more than once to get the point; not to mention the handful of spelling mistakes here and there!
A note from the book’s publisher describes To Each Her Own as 'The lost voice of middle-class women in Egypt,' and to some extent it’s true: most Egyptians can relate to these familiar stories.The stories are similar in writing to those published in blogs by dedicated Egyptians that hope for Cairo to be like the more developed capitals around the world.
However, at the core of it, the author herself doesn’t seem like the lost voice of middle-class women in Egypt. She obtained her pre-university education abroad from a prestigious and respected school while her dad’s high position and her family connections helped her to find a job at a minister’s office.
What makes the reader question the book as a collection of true local experiences is that it often strays from experiences that most middle-class Egyptians share and focuses on subjects that are less relevant and relatable to middle-class society, such as trips to Beijing and Brussels, to mention a few.
To Each Her Own is a light read that somehow provides an optimistic look at Egypt’s future generations. However, the book’s simplistic style is not really what you can call a work of art; it’s more of a young woman’s thoughts on what she has learned from her friendships and day-to-day life.
After finishing this book, you might be surprised by the book’s simplicity and flatness, which may lead you to feel that you may as well pick up a pen and start writing one yourself.
Detective Bosch has a lot going on in his personal front as well; his fifteen-year-old daughter who is way too mature for her age and wants to grow up to be a police officer is his main support system at home, and a budding romance between Bosch and a social worker adds a tinge of romance to Bosch's life.
The novel is left open-ended, in a way that allows the characters to seem more real as if their lives will continue beyond the pages of the novel.
Behind every successful man stands a great woman – or so the saying goes. Too bad we rarely get to see or hear anything about those women. Lily Koppel’s The Astronaut Wives Club aims to change that by telling the story of the wives of active NASA between 1959 and 1972.
With all eyes on the man going into space, one can’t help but wonder what it must be like for his significant other waiting for his safe return home. “If not for the wives.” Koppel notes in the first chapter, “man might never have walked on the moon.”
While this statement is true, the writer still paints a pretty sad and one-dimensional portrait of the majority of these women. They come across as airheads; quibbling about smoking in cars, concerned with what colour lipstick to wear when photographed for the cover of Time magazine, and wondering whether or not they will get to meet Jacky Kennedy.
The emphasis is on them being good housewives; setting everything aside in honour of their husband’s career and working jobs to get him through university, whilst foregoing their own education. Whatever emotional insight one hopes to find in the lives of these women is limited to whatever they told the press at the time. Judging from the epilogue, Koppel interviewed many of them personally and must have accumulated a treasure trove of insightful quotes. Curiously, almost none of that material made it into the book.
Without taking a feminist stance, this book is nothing short of ridiculous. It is understood that this is how women were viewed in 50s and 60s America, but that is no reason to keep that stereotype intact fifty years later. If the goal of this book is to make readers feel sorry for these ‘astrowives’, then that mission has been accomplished with honours.
To be fair though, the astronauts themselves aren’t portrayed too favourably either; they are mostly characterised as reprehensible men that cheat on their wives and compete with each other in testosterone-filled petty contests.
Aside from the misogyny, the book has several other issues. Initially, there are seven astrowives, later followed by another nine, and then fourteen more, making it rather difficult to keep up with who is who.
On top of that, Koppel is curiously brief about the most important one of them all – Neil Armstrong – and completely ignores his significant other. The first man on the moon is barely mentioned and his wife is not even named, even though the Apollo 11 mission is discussed in the book. To make it all that much stranger, Janet Armstrong does pop up in a few shots in the picture section of the book.
There is a website to go with the book, www.astronautwivesclub.com, but unsurprisingly, it is also remarkably shallow, providing little-to-no extra information on either the book or its characters.