The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton

A raw, powerful and relentlessly bleak look at the Egyptian political crisis

Book Review by Jonny Sweet | 15 Sep 2017
  • The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton
Book title: The City Always Wins
Author: Omar Robert Hamilton

For most of us, our only window into the Egyptian Arab Spring and its ensuing crisis was our TV station or newspaper of choice. These transitory glimpses offered little more than passing reminders of the abject cruelty taking place thousands of miles away, eliciting grunts of indignation and protest, before we sank back into the safety and complacency of our insulated lives.

With his debut novel The City Always Wins, Omar Robert Hamilton yanks us more firmly into the action than a news report ever could. Following the exploits of activists Khalil and Mariam, Hamilton shows us first-hand the atrocities committed on a daily basis under the various regimes which superseded the uprising, with initial optimism giving way to frustration, fear and exasperation in the face of relentless boot-grinding oppression.

It’s desperate stuff, and with so much tyranny flying around, there’s very little room for rays of sunshine or indeed any artistic flair to infiltrate Hamilton’s prose. Though well-written, his staccato style is disjointed and jarring, while its unrelenting bleakness makes it certainly not the easiest read you’ll run across this year. As such, it’s an uncomfortable but important look at a subject that has fallen largely out of the public consciousness in recent times, delivered in a far more powerful medium than those to which we’re accustomed.

Out now, published by Faber & Faber, RRP £14.99