Tuesday, December 27, 2022

ARC Review: Picture in the Sand by Peter Blauner

Picture in the Sand

Peter Blauner
Publication: Minotaur Books (January 3, 2023)

Description: Peter Blauner's epic Picture in the Sand is a sweeping intergenerational saga told through a grandfather's passionate letters to his grandson, passing on the story of his political rebellion in 1950s Egypt in order to save his grandson's life in a post-9/11 world.

When Alex Hassan gets accepted to an Ivy League university, his middle-class Egyptian-American family is filled with pride and excitement. But that joy turns to shock when they discover that he’s run off to the Middle East to join a holy war instead. When he refuses to communicate with everyone else, his loving grandfather Ali emails him one last plea. If Alex will stay in touch, his grandfather will share with Alex – and only Alex – a manuscript containing the secret story of his own life that he’s kept hidden from his family, until now.

It's the tale of his romantic and heartbreaking past rooted in Hollywood and the post-revolutionary Egypt of the 1950s, when young Ali was a movie fanatic who attained a dream job working for the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille on the set of his epic film, The Ten Commandments. But Ali’s vision of a golden future as an American movie mogul gets upended when he is unwittingly caught up in a web of politics, espionage, and real-life events that change the course of history.

It's a narrative he’s told no one for more than a half-century. But now he’s forced to unearth the past to save a young man who’s about to make the same tragic mistakes he made so long ago.

My Thoughts: When Ali Hassan's eighteen-year-old grandson Alex skips out on going to college to go to the Middle East to join the holy war, the only one he will communicate with his grandfather...and only if his grandfather tells him the story of his life. 

So, Ali Hassan tells his story of growing up in Egypt. He was a poor boy who fell in love with movies. When he had a chance to work for the legendary Cecil B. DeMille on the set of The Ten Commandments, he was overjoyed. But the 1950s was a time of great turmoil in Egypt. The king had been forced to abdicate. The military government was in flux with the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood waxing and waning by the day. Ali's own cousin Sherif was getting more and more militant. And soon, Ali finds himself caught up in politics and espionage and shifting governments. 

His emails to his grandson and his grandson's return emails show a caring man determined that his grandson does not make the same mistakes that he had made in his own past. And the emails show a grandson who is gradually becoming more and more disillusioned with the choice he made.

The story was wonderful. The writing vivid and descriptive as though seen through a cinematographer's eye. The people were all well-developed and intriguing in their choices and actions. From Raymond Garfield who is making a documentary about the changes in Egypt and who is also likely a Jewish spy to Mona Salem who is the French-Egyptian love of Ali's life and who is informing on the actions of those rebelling against Nasser's new rule in Egypt, all of the characters have a variety of sides which are presented sympathetically. 

Read this one! It is filled with unforgettable characters in a turbulent time and place in world history.  

Favorite Quote:
I was beginning to realize that terrorists, dictators, and Hollywood filmmakers were alike in not accepting the world as it really existed, but insisting that the terms be changed for then, that logic be bent to their purposes, and that life as everyone else knew it be broken down and remade according to their expectations.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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