Ireland’s gone bust, Aisling Finn’s relationship has fallen apart, and things seem a mess. So she flees home for adventure in the desert. To Arabia of all places. But when the Arab Spring kicks off, who of her new local friends and expat gang can she trust? Rose McGinty explores all of this in her novel Electric Souk, published by Urbane.
It seems a strange subject and plot, but only because it’s so inventive. Few, if any, authors have addressed both the economic crises and Arab Spring in a novel in this way. The prose is energetic and lively, with characters and settings drawn out in bright detail, and the plot is pacy and keeps emotions high. At times it would have been nice to get a bit more back story about the characters and their lives, as the urgency could be relentless.
McGinty is critical of the expat lifestyle, and doesn’t hide her aversion to charmer Brian Rothmann, whereas bubbly scouser Angie is immediately likeable. The description of the souks and landscape are vivid and immersive and there are some lovely moments, such as the Professor’s response to Aisling’s question as to where he is from: ‘I was born in a book.’
Ireland and Arabia could not be more different in theory, but through the novel’s events it becomes clear how universal the ideas of political betrayal, economic turmoil and social change are. Love, loss, betrayal and bloodshed happen everywhere. Including an electric souk.
You can hear my chat with Rose McGinty at Margate Book Festival here.