Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Specters (Radwa Ashour)

My kind of book, but unevenly paced

★★★★☆ 3/4 – CALSPIE 7.71

Title: Specters (original title: أطياف)
Author: Radwa Ashour
Translator: Barbara Romaine (from Arabic)
Genre: Non-Fiction/Autofiction
First published: 1999
Edition: Paperback, published by Interlink Books in 2011

Specters tells the story of Radwa and Shagar, two women born the same day. The narrative alternates between their childhoods, their work lives (one a professor of literature and the other of history), their married and unmarried lives, and their respective books. With her novel’s structure, Ashour pays tribute to the Arab qareen (double or companion, and sometimes demon) and the ancient Egyptian ka (the spirit that is born with and accompanies an individual through life and beyond).


This book is classed as fiction, but I have decided to put it under non-fiction, as by far the biggest part of the book deals with the author’s own experiences and the history and events of the region.

Part of the book is the book the author is writing about Shagar, whose life interlinks with her own, but to me those chapters were nowhere near as interesting as when she talks in the first person about her own life.

She tells a story of division and political anxiety, but also about strong women and dealing with life as it comes.

I found myself really interested in the subjectmatter and the lives she portrayed, but the pacing was pretty uneven and it took me a while to get into.

This was definitely my kind of book, but I am not sure who I would recommend this book to, as it is so niche. If you are interested in the history of Egypt as well as Palestine, you find this an interesting read.

3.75 out of 5 stars


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