This astonishing memoir is the story of a family who always felt slightly foreign in every country and developed a chameleon-like ability to adapt to their surroundings. Gini Alhadeff was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and grew up in Cairo, Khartoum, Florence, and Tokyo. With a vivid gift for narrative, Alhadeff evokes the languid Alexandria of the early decades of this century (where her mother’s family made its fortune in cotton) and some of its beguiling honorary citizens: a violet-eyed aunt who refused to have new slipcovers made for her sofa so President Nasser would find the old ones when her house was impounded; a cousin who was taught the limits of reason by Wittgenstein at Cambridge and became a monsignor; a gynecologist uncle interned at Auschwitz and then Buchenwald, who lived to tell his tale with stark unsentimentality. With a keen sense for both the comic and the tragic, Alhadeff sizes up what is left of the family fortune: a tendency to live beyond one’s means, the stories and legends that survive the rise and fall of families, and the present as a paradise for those who, having lost all, have nothing to lose.
"Remarkably vivid, drawn with both the emotional insight of a novelist and a journalist’s unforgiving eye...that re-creates, if not recaptures, the elusive past."
The New York Times
"It is called a memoir but it is also (and all at once) a history and a novel and a poem, a beautiful and undefinable piece of work."