8 reviews

City of the Sun
by Juliana Maio

Published: 2014-03-11
Paperback : 384 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 8 members
Espionage, love, and power play upon the shifting sands of wartime Cairo

CAIRO, EGYPT 1941. As the Second World War rages, the city known as ''Paris on the Nile'' plays host to an international set who seem more interested in polo matches and swanky nightclubs than the Germans' ...

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Espionage, love, and power play upon the shifting sands of wartime Cairo

CAIRO, EGYPT 1941. As the Second World War rages, the city known as ''Paris on the Nile'' plays host to an international set who seem more interested in polo matches and swanky nightclubs than the Germans' unrelenting advance across North Africa. Meanwhile, as refugees, soldiers, and spies stream into the city, the Nazis conspire with the emerging Muslim Brotherhood to fuel the Egyptian people's seething resentment against their British overlords.

Ambitious American journalist Mickey Connolly has come to Cairo to report on the true state of the war. Facing expulsion by the British for not playing by their rules, he accepts a deal from the U.S. embassy that allows him to remain in the country. His covert mission: to infiltrate the city's thriving Jewish community and locate a refugee nuclear scientist who could be key to America's new weapons program. But Mickey is not the only one looking for the elusive scientist. A Nazi spy is also desperate to find him--and the race is on. Into this mix an enigmatic young woman appears, a refugee herself. Her fate becomes intertwined with Mickey's, giving rise to a story of passion, entangled commitments, and half-truths.

Deftly blending the romantic noir of the classic film Casablanca with a riveting, suspenseful narrative and vivid historical detail, City of the Sun offers a stunning portrayal of a time and place that was not only pivotal for the war, but also sowed much of the turbulence in today's Middle East.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.



Libyan Desert September 1941

"He says it's true. Hitler is a Muslim, a good one. He goes to the mosque and prays five times a day," Mickey's Egyptian interpreter assured him, as he hurriedly translated the comments of the ragtag group of Bedouins who'd gathered around their Jeep. The men were tripping over each other's sentences in their eagerness to share their stories about the war with an American reporter. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Of Maya Blumenthal, Juliana Maio writes: “She loved the sun and had always felt a powerful kinship with it, reveling in its warm glow and healing rays. She would drink it in, believing God was caressing her and filling her body with light. Perhaps this was so, for people often said she gave off sunlight when she smiled—at least that’s what they used to say.” Discuss the sun as a theme of the novel.

2. Does the mutually growing attraction between Maya and Mickey Connolly help or harm Mickey’s mission to bring Erik Blumenthal over to the American side?

3. Based on the description of the Egyptian Jewish community in City of the Sun, as well as the political situation in the region, is Cairo a place you would want to live if you were a European Jewish refugee in 1941?

4. What is the likely future of the relationship between Mickey and Maya?

5. To what extent are Heinrich Kesner's actions motivated by anti-Semitism, and to what extent are they motivated by the simple desire for career advancement?

6. Does King Farouk, as portrayed in City of the Sun, have any redeeming qualities as a statesman?

7. Anwar Sadat, who plays a pivotal role in City of the Sun, later became president of Egypt and signed an historic peace agreement with Israel (for which he was assassinated). Do his actions in the novel foreshadow his eventual willingness to compromise with Israel?

8. Do Ambassador Kirk and the other American authorities seem to have genuine concern for the well-being of Erik Blumenthal, or do they just see him as someone who can help them achieve their own goals?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub


"…The many historical figures lend authenticity, but it is Connolly and Levi's romantic entanglement that drives this satisfying exploration of a key time in western and Middle Eastern relations." Publishers Weekly

"...A strong historical thriller that uses real persona and events to anchor a powerful storyline. Readers will feel they are in 1941 Cairo... The romantic subplot adds hope and passion in the midst of strife. However, readers will relish the profound look at the early days of the Middle East dispute (interwoven into a superb drama) that still haunts the region and world decades after the end of WWII." Midwest Book Review.

“…[An] entertaining, informative, and sometimes heartbreaking novel.” Jewish Book Council, Book Review

"Romance and characters' personal stories are as important as a political plot, which touches on the fate of the post-WW II world, in this thriller that holds readers' attention to the very end. Maio's research is excellent, and the background it provides for present-day events in the Middle East is fascinating. The novel unfolds at a pleasant pace, the characters are sympathetic and Maio effectively uses three viewpoints to tell her story." RT Times


“What we don’t know about Cairo during World War II turns out to make for an enthralling novel. Egyptian born Juliana Maio knows this territory like the palm of her hand, which is where she holds us. City of the Sun weaves a tangled tale of espionage, wartime romance, political intrigue, and action in a city crawling with all four. If you liked Casablanca, this story is for you.” –Nicholas Meyer, New York Times Best Seller and Screenplay Academy Award nominee for The Seven Percent Solution; screenwriter, The Human Stain; director of Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

Book Club Recommendations

Book Club with the Husbands
by Nanasan (see profile) 06/17/14
We had our husbands read this and invited them to the meeting. It was a good book to share with them.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Brilliant!!!"by Chacker (see profile) 06/21/14

Juliana Maio's book is simply brilliant!! The story of Mickey, the American journalist, and Maya, the Jewish refugee, will grab you with both hands and take you through an exotic, exciting journey in... (read more)

  "City of the Sun"by Nanasan (see profile) 06/17/14

Very informative of city of Cairo and its citizens at that time in history. I felt that I knew the main characters well. The writing was wonderful and I wanted to keep reading.

  "Slow beginning but gets better"by Chickim4 (see profile) 06/17/14

Our book club was very fortunate to win copies of this book and chat with the author. A very interesting and climatic ending!

  "City of the Sun"by curlylinda (see profile) 06/16/14

I received this as a free book for my book club from Pauline Book Movement. We are reading this for book club in July. A few of us finished it already and found it to be an easy ready novel that gave... (read more)

by laurie716 (see profile) 06/11/14

  "What happened?"by jpr1506 (see profile) 01/31/15

In one word: inconsistent. Started off great, informative and well written, then turned way too graphic in the sex scenes and the end seemed to be written by a different author.

by dlovell (see profile) 06/17/14

Enjoyed from the first page to the last!

  "CITY OF THE SUN by Juliana Maio"by [email protected] (see profile) 01/06/14

This book started as a good, well thought out war time spy thriller with a little romance thrown in. Then three fourth of the way through a couple of needless hot and heavy sex scenes appea... (read more)

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