Live from Cairo — Ian Bassingthwaighte’s Juxtaposes the Middle East’s Refugee Crisis with Egypt’s 2011 Revolution

Live from Cairo features sharply drawn youngish adults confronting the Middle East’s refugee crisis in the midst of Egypt’s revolution in 2011.  Each of Ian Bassingthwaighte’s characters tries to pursue and protect her or his own agenda in the face of utter confusion and inescapable misery.  Charlie and Aos, the legal aid workers, together with Hana, the Iraqi-American resettlement officer, combine romantic idealism and a sense of purpose with jaded exhaustion and an overarching hopelessness.   They also share some personal spark impelling them to go rogue.  Dahlia, Omran and the other refugees suffer from terrible past trauma and find themselves trapped in a bleak and inhuman refugee crisis.  Desperate as their situations are, the refugees persist in their struggle to maintain personal relationships and care for each other.  Red tape, violence and mind-numbing uncertainty are the enemies.  

Live from Cairo‘s premise is reminiscent of the film Casablanca in that an interesting assortment of desperate individuals find itself trapped in a corrupt, dangerous place rocked by trauma and violence.  The tense mix of fear and personal desire in an unforgiving environment where everything keeps changing is not quite as horrific as it sounds, because, like Casablanca, there are some deft comic aspects to the characters and the situations.  I found myself so invested in these characters that I really needed to now what would happen to them and how they would react.

I particularly admired the way in which Bassingthwaite managed to provide so much information about a significant number of characters in his brief and highly active narrative.  The reader’s situation mirrors that of the novel’s characters, who have to pick up information about each other through short bursts of information and relatively brief encounters.  Like the characters, the reader also has to decide quickly who is trustworthy.  The dialog between characters is particularly sharp and advances the narrative brilliantly.

I recommend this novel as highly informative and entertaining all at the same time.


Doing Dangerously Well – A Scary/Funny Novel about Water, Corruption and International Interference in Nigeria



This is a great book!  For no particular reason except my obsessive alphabetical-by-author selection process, I recently picked up and devoured Carole Enahoro’s 2010 over-the-top novel Doing Dangerously Well.   This chillingly funny book concerns the exploits and machinations of a sleazy bunch of characters determined to sew up and profit from monopolizing Nigeria’s water supply.  There are the corrupt, paranoid politicians on the ground in Nigeria and then there are the corporate sharks of a huge, blatantly corrupt American conglomerate.  On both sides of the ocean, the parties are so busy fighting among themselves that they fail to account for outside opposition to their overall plan.  Mary and Barbara Glass, two sisters on opposite pages about everything except for the glee they each share in tromping  the other, provide a crazy theme of family failure to complete this oddball satire about the deadly business of access to water.  You really need to read this book.  It is just amazing!

Carole Enahoro, the author, has a Nigerian father and an English mother, and has grown up in Nigeria, Britain and Canada.  In addition to her parental and geographic diversity, Enahoro, has pursued a wide range of interests, including teaching geography at the the University of London and working in television.  At the time this book was published, she was working on a PhD in spatial practice, power and satire in Nigeria’s capital.  Her diverse talents are brilliantly employed in this novel and I really hope she writes another one.  Soon.  In the meantime, someone really needs to make a movie out of this.  The part of over-the-top Barbara is completely made for Toni Collette, and Julia Roberts would have a blast as the evil corporate sister.