The Key to Rebecca

The Key to Rebecca

I am a big fan of Ken Follett (see my blogs on The Pillars of the Earth, Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, The Edge of Eternity and The Evening and the Morning), and for Christmas I was given The Key to Rebecca, which I read at the beginning of April.

It is set in Cairo in 1942, when the British are engaged in desert warfare against the German army, and intelligence is crucial to success on both sides. Alex Wolff emerges from the desert and immediately attracts the attention of British intelligence officer William Vandam, who ignores his stupid boss and, like a dog with a bone, refuses to stop investigating. Wolff is a German-Egyptian, determined to discover the secret British battle plans and get them to Rommel so he can win the desert war. Sonja, an Eqptian belly dancer, becomes involved, as does Jewish socialite Elena Fontana. There is a lot of lust and some romance thrown in too, as some of the characters unwittingly fall in love.

All of this is set against the meticulously depicted backdrop of wartime Cairo, simmering with tensions as the Egyptians push back against British rule and as the Germans get ever closer to taking the city.

As usual with Follett, it is a gripping and enjoyable read. It is also dated, having been first published in 1980, and the stereotypes of the Egyptian characters jar. They are almost all depicted as baddies, out for themselves, whilst the British fight for a greater good. Anyone reading this should go on to the wonderful novels set in Egypt by Egyptian writer Adhaf Soueif.