City of the Sun, Juliana Maio
Read and interviewed by Amanda
Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press on March 11, 2014
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.
From Juliana’s website:
Juliana Maio was born in Egypt but expelled from the country with her family during the Suez Crisis. She was raised in France and completed her higher education in the United States, receiving her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Juris Doctor degree from UC Hastings.
Juliana practices entertainment law in Los Angeles and has represented internationally renowned filmmakers as well as a host of independent production companies. Prior to that she served as vice president of worldwide corporate and business affairs for Triumph Films, a joint venture between Columbia Pictures and Gaumont Films.
Juliana co-founded Lighthouse Productions, an independent film and television company. She has spoken both domestically and abroad about the Arab Spring. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, film producer Michael Phillips. They have a daughter.
Amanda: Your book was completely eye opening for me to read from a historical perspective. I’ve definitely read about the numbers of Jews that fled to Palestine during WWII, but I admit that I had not given thought to Egypt. I did not know about the local population or really about their role during the war. What drew you to write about this time period, rather than the events in your own life? Have you been back to Egypt?
Juliana: “There was so much at stake during WWII that I thought it important to bring the story to that period. Not only was it a pivotal time for the war but also a determinative time with regard to relations between Westerners and Arabs. Also, with refugees, spies and thousands of soldiers converging into Cairo, I thought this would bring a rich canvas to the novel.
Yes, I have been back to Egypt a few times. Cairo is decaying unfortunately.”
It was amazing to me how many of your characters were real or based in real people; like the spy JOHANNES EPPLER or the belly dancer HEKMET FAHMY. Who was your favorite person to put on the page-other than your own creations? (I am really sad that Kirk’s secretary, Dorothy Calley, was not real!)
“Once you put yourself into a character and get under his/her skin, it’s impossible not to like the character. But I guess my favorite historical character is Anwar Sadat because he was truly genuine in his love for his country. By the same token, I really liked Bill Donovan for the same reason. I do admire patriotism.”
If you could describe City of the Sun in 3 words what would they be?
“Journey into another world – oops 4 words! But that’s what the novel did for me.”
What else would you like readers to know about you? What do you like to read?
” This book is very close to my heart and I just hope that my readers enjoy it and learn from it. I generally read non-fiction, but I hope to have more time to start reading more fiction.”
Are you working on another book?
“Not yet, but I’m starting to do research on a sequel to CITY OF THE SUN, which will take place in 1956!”
I found City of the Sun to be rich in historical detail and it opened my eyes to a subject I had never thought about. What we learn about WWII and the Jews is so European focused, so I really liked reading a totally different perspective on the war. I also have not read anything that addressed the different factions of the Jews during the war and how they felt about each other. The appearances by Anwar Sadat and the Muslim Brotherhood also made me really think about how the stage was set so long ago for the Middle East and Egypt that we see today.
We are lucky enough to have TWO copies of City of the Sun to giveaway!
Comment to win! So because Egypt is my favorite country that I have never had a chance to go to, I want to know-Where is your dream country to travel to?
Open to US residents only please and we’ll pick 2 random numbers to win on April 7.