Middle East reporter Cambanis, who writes the “Internationalist” column for the Boston Globe and regularly contributes to the New York Times, offers a gripping portrayal of the forces that led to the eruption in Tahrir Square in Egypt on January 25, 2011. His reporting and analysis also move out from that event, considering a revolution that has not yet ended. He compares this revolution to the French Revolution, a long time coming and a long time continuing. Cambanis’ in-depth examination started, he says, with his on-the-ground reporting during the uprising, finding people in the square who were willing to continue to talk with him. The richness of his reporting informs his book, but it is the narrative nonfiction frame that humanizes the account and makes it more accessible. He focuses on two unlikely revolutionaries: Basem Kamel, a middle-class architect who came late to politics at 40, and Moaz Abdelkarim, a pharmacist and career activist. By tracing Kamel’s and Abdelkarim’s varying backgrounds, Cambanis manages both to give readers two insiders’ views of Egypt in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and to trace the origins of Tahrir Square and its ripples. Cambanis is master of the compelling detail: for example, in relating that Kamel was born in 1937, he notes that this was the year King Farouk I was crowned, a king who ate oysters by the hundred in his palace while his people endured WWII bombings. Wonderfully readable and insightful.
— Connie Fletcher