This collection of loosely connected and interwoven short stories, many of which are presumably charting the life of a single narrator, showcases Soueif’s elegiacal style, the sense of loss and love which pervades her stories, from the reminiscence of a young girl for her Cairo childhood, to experiencing the cusp of adolescence as a stranger in a cold and distant country, where she feels more at home with Emma Bovary than people her age, or to the more mature tales of adult love, whose pain and suffering are glimpsed briefly in the childhood stories but whose kaleidoscope of colours are fully revealed as the narrator grows up.

At times, as with the cleverly told “Mandy”, where the story explores the relationship between two women with a single man, both from the point of view of the individual females, resonate emotionally, however others do fall a bit flat, leading to a somewhat uneven narrative. This is perhaps to be expected, as the stories were written over  a number of years, however the high points of Soueif’s stories, from the dappled sunlight captured via the French sunlights of the narrator’s childhood in “Knowing”  , to the exploration of the disintegration of the marriage between Asya and Saif in “Satan” demonstrate an artist at the height of her powers.