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Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University in the mid 1990’s. With her prior travel and work experiences coupled with her current academic success, she is given the opportunity to travel to Damascus to study there in an immersion program. She immediately notices the kindness and generosity of the people she meets . What must have been obvious to the people there was how naive and trusting she was.
Prior to meeting her fellow classmates, she meets a man and feels an immediate attraction to him. He offers to take her under his wing and help her out. He introduces her to others and takes her out to lunch and to various meetings she has in terms of her schooling and having a visa. She soon enters a romantic relationship with him but quickly learns that not everything (or everyone) is as it seems. What should have been a time of study and personal growth quickly becomes a journey though lies, deceit, terrorist activity, and interaction with the Syrian secret police.
There were times I wanted to shake the main character. I immediately thought, who travels to another country without having a place to stay? Seriously, why would someone travel to attend school without having obtained lodging?? She really opened herself up to trouble right there. As her parent, I would never have allowed this. Scary. Elizabeth was also very trusting and open to going with strangers. Again, opening herself up to danger. Just because someone is nice to you does not mean that they are nice.
Elizabeth, though, is trusting and makes friends and has a romance without fully knowing who or what she is dealing with. Again, the character came off as very naive and too trusting. Once at school, she does make friends and through some friendships, she gains some insight into just how trusting she was.
Just when I thought Elizabeth, was back on track, studying and making friends, while exploring the city, she once again got into another dangerous situation. She took the meaning of immersing herself into the culture a little too far, if you ask me!
This book proved to be a very fast read. Elizabeth goes through a lot in a relatively short period of time. She matures a lot, learns some harsh lessons of life and gets in over her head. This book is a suspense thriller but also serves as a coming of age story for Elizabeth. She does get in some serious hot water, but she also gets the opportunity to speak Arabic and further develop her language skills. She also has unique and interesting experiences in the Middle East while she is living there ranging from living with a family, going to a place to bathe with other women, and enjoying local cuisine. She is given the chance to visit locations and seen the effects of war in the areas she visits.
I received a copy of this book from the Author through Book Publicity services in exchange for an honest review.