Saturday, January 8, 2011

Late For Tea at the Deer Palace-Tamara Chalabi

Late For Tea at the Deer Palace
Tamara Chalabi
Harper, Jan 18 2011, $27.99
ISBN: 9780061240393

Just after WWI Iraq remained Under British control, but the Chalabi family was one of the most powerful locals as they pushed for modernization. The author’s great-grandfather Abdul Hussein Chalabi was a key figure in the birth of a nation. In 1932, Britain granted Iraq its independence, which enhanced the influence and wealth of the Chalabi family as a monarchy is established. Between the World Wars, Baghdad become known as the Middle East’s Paris with the writer’s grandma Bibi leading the revival. Abdul’s son Abdul Hadi Chalabi became extremely rich with a deep connection to Britain especially during World War II. However, in 1958 the coup ends the Chalabi power as they are forced to flee the country. When Saddam took power, Ahmed Chalabi became the leader of the opposition Iraqi National Congress in exile. Finally his daughter Tamara leaves England arriving in Baghdad for the first time in 2003.

Late for Tea at the Deer Palace is an excellent historical chronicle of Iraq through four generations of the Chalabi family. An historian, Tamara Chalabi provides a profound look at her country that she first stepped inside when she was in her late twenties though the tales from her family to her provided her a rich background. The exile years are not as fully developed as the preceding decades with the best segues of the family saga coming from Bibi’s extremely modern (eye opening) perspective that will leave readers to ponder what if.

Harriet Klausner

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