Iris & Ruby – Rosie Thomas

Still with my holiday book haul (oh how I wish I was still on holiday!), I have just finished Iris & Ruby. I really enjoyed it! It wasn’t the kind of page turner that raises your heart rate and makes you glare fiercely at anyone who dares to come and talk to you, but more the kind of story which, when finished, you put down with a quietly satisfied sigh. Like a nice cup of tea instead of a shot of tequila.

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Or, you know… have both!
The premise is that Ruby, a ‘difficult’ teenager, rocks up unexpectedly in Cairo, where her grandmother Iris lives. It’s very much a character study; all about relationships – particularly motherhood and daughterhood – with a gently-paced narrative thread that changes voices and tenses, meandering through recent and not-so-recent historical and present happenings. It’s not confusing though; in fact, I think Thomas has been particularly clever here, as the narrative voice echoes that of Iris, now that she is older and her memory is failing. It’s not always logical, it’s not always clear, but it is always beautiful and by the end everything links up wonderfully.

It’s interesting too, being set in Cairo during the second world war; I learned stuff (I like to learn stuff) and Cairo of then-and-now makes a really fascinating backdrop for the interplay of relationships, the themes of regret and happiness, forgiveness and truth. Iris and Ruby talk and listen, telling stories (there we go again, with this storytelling superpower thing!), and recounting their lives to each other with Ruby’s mum – Iris’ daughter – worried and unaware at home in England.

My mum will really like this book.

Mum – I’ll lend it to you!

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