Late for Tea at the Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family

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9780007249312: Late for Tea at the Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family

A lyrical, haunting, multi-generational memoir of one family’s tempestuous century in Iraq from 1900 to the present.

The Chalabis are one of the oldest and most prominent families in Iraq. For centuries they have occupied positions of honour and responsibility, loyally serving first the Ottoman Empire and, later, the national government.

In ‘Late for Tea at the Deer Palace’, Tamara Chalabi explores the dramatic story of her extraordinary family’s history in this beautiful, passionate and troubled land. From the grand opulence of her great-grandfather’s house and the birth of the modern state, through to the elegant Iraq of her grandmother Bibi, who lived the life of a queen in Baghdad, and finally to her own story, that of the ex-pat daughter of a family in exile, Chalabi takes us on an unforgettable and eye-opening journey.

This is the story of a lost homeland, whose turbulent transformations over the twentieth century left gaping wounds at the hearts not only of the family it exiled, but also of the elegant, sophisticated world it once represented. When Tamara visited her once-beautiful ancestral land for the first time in 2003, she found a country she didn’t recognize – and a nation on the brink of a terrifying and uncertain new beginning.

Lyrical and unique, this exquisite multi-generational memoir brings together east and west, the poetic and the political as it brings to life a land of beauty and grace that has been all but lost behind recent headlines.

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Review:

‘In this absorbing book [Chalabi] has wrapped up much that is important in Iraq’s history in the story of her own family’s development through the 20th century…She does so beautifully, in a complex family memoir attuned to the beats of Iraqi history…Chalabi’s aim is to reclaim for her readers a country that war and news have reduced to “a desert of tanks, screaming women and barefoot children”. She succeeds: a meditation on exile, a moving family portrait, thoughtful and well-researched, “Late for Tea” gives Iraq, as much as the Chalabi family, its story.’ Jason Goodwin, Spectator

‘Delicate and intricately wrought…there is a sense of poignancy and acute longing for an Iraq that is all but unrecognisable today’ Traveller

‘Tamara’s tale is not about WMDs or insurgents. It is the story of a bourgeois Iraqi family set against the opulent backdrop of the Ottoman Empire…It is the story of Iraq, but told from an Iraqi woman’s perspective; then it also becomes the story of a young woman’s struggle for identity…“Late for Tea at the Deer Palace” has a whimsical, magical quality’ Janine di Giovani, Telegraph

‘Chalabi describes a litany of privilege through the 1930s and 1940s: picnics on islands in the Tigris, tea parties with royal princesses, card games, matchmaking and gossip…From the sweet buffalo cream her great-grandfather adores to the dancing girls in the risqué new cafes her grandfather frequents, the richness of an “expired epoch” long past is lovingly rendered’ Wendell Steavenson, Sunday Times

From the Back Cover:

The Chalabis are one of the oldest and most prominent families in Iraq. For centuries they have occupied positions of honour and responsibility, loyally serving first the Ottoman Empire and, later, the national government.

And yet despite her ancestors’ deep ties to the region, until very recently Tamara Chalabi’s understanding of her homeland was based almost entirely on stories. Raised in exile, she knew Iraq only through the homesick reminiscences of her paternal family, her uncles and her formidable grandparents.

In ‘Late for Tea at the Deer Palace’, Tamara Chalabi explores the dramatic story of her extraordinary family’s history in this beautiful, passionate and troubled land. From the grand opulence of her great-grandfather’s house and the birth of the modern state, through to the elegant Iraq of her grandmother Bibi, who lived the life of a queen in Baghdad, and finally to her own story, that of the ex-pat daughter of a family in exile, Chalabi takes us on an unforgettable and eye-opening journey.

This is the story of a lost homeland, whose turbulent transformations over the twentieth century left gaping wounds at the hearts not only of the family it exiled, but also of the elegant, sophisticated world it once represented. When Tamara visited her once-beautiful ancestral land for the first time in 2003, she found a country she didn’t recognize – and a nation on the brink of a terrifying and uncertain new beginning.

Lyrical and unique, this exquisite multi-generational memoir brings together east and west, the poetic and the political as it brings to life a land of beauty, grace and longing that has been all but lost behind recent headlines.

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