Synopses & Reviews
In vivid and graceful prose, Lucette Lagnado re-creates the majesty and cosmopolitan glamour of Cairo in the years between World War II and Gamal Abdel Nasser's rise to power. Her father, Leon, was a boulevardier who conducted business on the elegant terrace of Shepheard's Hotel, and later, in the cozy, dark bar of the Nile Hilton, dressed in his signature white sharkskin suit. But with the fall of King Farouk and Nasser's nationalization of Egyptian industry, Leon and his family lose everything.
As streets are renamed, neighborhoods of their fellow Jews disbanded, and the city purged of all foreign influence, the Lagnados, too, must make their escape. With all of their belongings packed into twenty-six suitcases, their jewels and gold coins hidden in sealed tins of marmalade, Leon and his family depart for any land that will take them. The poverty and hardships they encounter in their flight from Cairo to Paris to New York are strikingly juxtaposed against the beauty and comforts of the lives they left behind.
An inversion of the American dream set against the stunning portraits of three world cities, Lucette Lagnado's memoir offers a grand and sweeping story of faith, tradition, tragedy, and triumph.
"[A] deeply affecting portrait....Like Andre Aciman in his now classic memoir, Out of Egypt (1994), [Lagnado] conjures a vanished world with elegiac ardor and uncommon grace, and like Mr. Aciman she calculates the emotional costs of exile with an unsentimental but forgiving eye." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[C]rushing, brilliant....In this book, [Lagnado] so effortlessly captures the characters in her family, and the Egyptian metropolis around them, that the reader may fail to notice the overwhelming research buttressing this story." Alana Newhouse, The New York Times Book Review
"Incorporating themes of generational conflict, religious faith, and family bonds, it will likely appeal to readers interested in the U.S. immigrant experience or the modern history of Jews in the Middle East." Library Journal
"Lagnado...has a national reputation for covering the struggles of the poor, the elderly and the uninsured within the health care system. Her compassion for the voiceless and the forgotten is little wonder." Oregonian
"The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit is full of sentiment, information and wisdom, at once deeply affecting and profoundly disturbing." The Washington Times
"The strength of this memoir is in the writer's prose, at once graceful and powerful....She joins memoirists Andre Aciman (Out of Egypt) and Gini Alhadeff (The Sun at Midday) in writing lyrical, personal books that are important documents of communities that have been extinguished." The Jewish Week
"Nostalgic but objectively tempered portrait of a family at the heart of social and cultural upheaval." Kirkus Reviews
This poignant and breathtaking memoir from an award-winning Wall Street Journal reporter recounts the exile of her family from Egypt and her father's heroic and tragic struggle to survive his riches-to-rags trajectory.
Lucette Lagnado's father, Leon, is a successful Egyptian businessman and boulevardier who, dressed in his signature white sharkskin suit, makes deals and trades at Shepherd's Hotel and at the dark bar of the Nile Hilton. After the fall of King Farouk and the rise of the Nasser dictatorship, Leon loses everything and his family is forced to flee, abandoning a life once marked by beauty and luxury to plunge into hardship and poverty, as they take flight for any country that would have them.
A vivid, heartbreaking, and powerful inversion of the American dream, Lucette Lagnado's unforgettable memoir is a sweeping story of family, faith, tradition, tragedy, and triumph set against the stunning backdrop of Cairo, Paris, and New York.
About the Author
Born in Cairo, Lucette Lagnado is a senior special writer and investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, where she has received numerous prizes for her work, including Columbia University's Mike Berger Award, as well as honors from the National Press Club and the New York Press Club. She is the coauthor of Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz, which has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Lagnado resides with her husband, journalist Douglas Feiden, in Manhattan and Sag Harbor, New York.