Date Published: September 27, 2013
British ex-diplomat MICHAEL BLAKE has been blinded and is confined to his flat in Cairo. Every few days a visitor comes to read to him. It’s a year since he took early retirement and booked a long–awaited birding trip on the Nile.
Half way through the voyage he meets LEE YONG and finds himself falling for her. But she’s falling for REDA, their tour guide. He isn’t all he seems either and when the Egyptian revolution kicks off, BLAKE finds himself embroiled in a tangled web of love and intrigue. When REDA is captured and thrown into jail, BLAKE will be forced to decide – to help LEE YONG and join the revolution or stand aside and risk losing everything.
Set against the background of the events of January 2011, BIRDS OF THE NILE is a powerful story of loss and self discovery as three disparate characters, each with their own agenda, seek to come to terms with change. Part political thriller, part love story, BIRDS OF THE NILE reminds us of the complex nature of global cultural interaction and how, as individuals, we try to deal with it
I was originally interested in this novel because of the inclusion of ornithology and the fact that it was set in Egypt. I enjoyed reading this book not only because it included beautiful descriptions of birds and the immersion into Egyptian culture and history, but because it ended up being so much more than that.
Micheal Blake has aged out of the British Embassy in Cairo, he loved his job, but is being forced into retirement. Blake decides to focus on his one other love in life, birding; he goes on a cruise down the Nile. While on the cruise, Blake is in for much more than a pleasant birding holiday. His cruise mates make up an interesting cast of characters (who can forget the Biltmore's from Baltimore?) and one of them, a young woman named Lee Young will change Blake's whole mindset.
Set during Egypt's political uprising during Mubarek's presidency in 2011, it was interesting for me to learn more about this time from an Egyptian's point of view. Reda's character, a tour guide on the cruise ship, gave me insight into the issues from an insider's point of view. It was also intriguing to watch Blake's changing attitudes toward his country, fellow country men and his change in personality from an observer to an active participant. Blake's relationship with Lee Young was a breath of fresh air, though he does have inklings of romantic feelings for her, their relationship is deeper than that and turns into something much better.
N.E.David is the pen name of York author Nick David. Nick tried his hand at writing at the age of 21 but like so many things in life, it did not work out first time round. Following the death of his father in 2005, he took it up again and has been successful in having a series of short novellas published both in print and online.
Nick maintains he has no personal or political message to convey but that his objective is merely to entertain the reader and he hopes this is reflected in his writing. Besides being a regular contributor to Literary Festivals and open mics in the North East Region, Nick is also a founder member of York Authors and co-presenter of Book Talk on BBC Radio York.
His debut novel, Birds of the Nile, is published by Roundfire.
Website Twitter: @NEDavidAuthor
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There were times when he thought he could see the light - or at least sense it - a
faint blur amidst the general darkness. He knew it was there, for each morning when he
shuffled across the bare boards of his room and threw open the shutters to let in the day, he remembered how it would come flooding in, great long shafts of it slicing into the space between the window and his bed, the covers turned back, the sheet still warm
from whatever rest he had managed the night before. Then he would feel it too, the heat
of it on his hands and feet, and for a minute or two he would bathe his face in it, slanting
his chin upwards toward the sun which even at that early hour still had the capacity to
burn. It would strike him how pleasurable this was, and rather than go to the bathroom
for his morning ablutions and take the risk of boiling a kettle and pouring scalding water
into a sink, he would remain by the window and wash himself in a brightness he knew
but could not see. And so, in this way, another day would slowly but surely begin.
On this particular morning he had woken with a jolt. The dream which had
continually afflicted his sleep had returned and was plaguing him once more. He had
thought himself free of it, but it was back and with it the suspicion that it would never
truly leave him.
large crowd, almost like a herd of buffalo charging across an open plain. He was filled
with a feeling of joy and light-headedness and he imagined he was carrying something in his hand (was it a flag?) which he seemed to hold aloft as if in triumph. Then he would become aware of the noise, the raised voices of the tumult surrounding him, the shouts and cries of the crowd and the deep rumble of stones landing on corrugated sheeting. And somewhere at the back of his throat he could taste what he thought was the bitterness of gunsmoke.
Then the dreaded moment would arrive, preceded as if it were a herald’s trumpet
by the loud whinnying of a horse. The massive beast and its rider would suddenly
appear out of the confusion and rear up before him in fear. He would find himself staring
at its hooves and a moment would pass in which he could hear nothing save a strange
rattle as though a tin can were being kicked down the street. Then it would fall silent
again for a second before everything erupted in a deafening roar and the searing pain
Here he would jerk himself awake and sit bolt upright in the bed, his upper body drenched in sweat and his breath coming in short, sharp gasps like those of a panting dog. He would stay there, his arms pushed back against the sheets behind him until he had finally calmed himself and told himself that it was only a dream. But after a while, when he felt ready, as if in the hope that all life since had been part of his imagination too, he would gradually prise his eyelids apart to test the reality.
Yet still there would be nothing.
Eventually, he would swing his legs over the edge of the bed and instead of
trying to fall back to sleep and risk a repeat of the same painful journey, he would make
his way across to the window where he would open the shutters once more.