From Publishers Weekly
Bassiouney's bighearted fourth novel (the first to be translated into English) portrays the agonies of love and identity. When Ashraf Daawood returns to Egypt in 1980, after growing up and becoming a banker in England, his cousin Wafaa falls hard for him. She must deal with her turmoil in secret, however, when Ashraf begins dating Lubna Thaabit, a feisty Communist journalist. After a brief stay in jail for her political leanings, Lubna breaks up with Ashraf, who returns to London and soon loses all his money. Penniless and disgraced, Ashraf flees to America, where his comeuppance involves working as a lowly cashier in a bank and living in poverty in a group house. Meanwhile, Wafaa has become a history teacher, supporting her parents and refusing to get married, doggedly waiting for Ashraf, with whom she shares an initially stilted correspondence that eventually shows signs of something deeper. Though sentimental in places and melodramatic in others, this story of self-discovery and the trials of love is delivered with warmth and humor. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In the early 1980s, Egyptian teenager Wafaa falls desperately in love with her elegant older cousin, Ashraf, a banker and British citizen whose penchant for pistachios is an emblem of his Westernized sophistication. Alas, the wealthy Ashraf only has eyes for Lubna, a fiery Communist journalist. But Wafaa remains true to her dream of marrying Ashraf, as he severs his relationship with Lubna, loses his money, and winds up impoverished and living in squalor in America. But he still loves those pistachios and maybe, just maybe, might even now love faithful Wafaa. This first novel of Egyptian writer—and now Georgetown professor—Bassiouney to be published in English translation, The Pistachio Seller is freighted with a heavy load of symbols and often wooden dialogue but nevertheless offers an intimate look at Egypt in the 1980s and the changes that a dynamic decade were bringing to its life and culture. --Michael Cart