The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat

The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat is a novel. It starts in 1946 when Cairo is engulfed by demonstrations against the British rule. The protagonist of the novel is Layla and her brother Mahmud, who is involved in those demonstrations. He comes home wounded, which makes her more aware of what is happening in Egypt. The book is a modern classic, a book that tells Layla’s story through her sexual and political coming of age.

The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat

I had high hopes for this book, but it was not for me. I gave it 3 stars because it’s not bad, but not specially good either. Of course, I will avoid giving out any spoilers.

I liked her older brother but he doesn’t appear too much in the story. Layla sounds like an annoying teenager because she is one. She is self-centred and unpleasant to begin with. The others are a bit similar though, her parents with their views and way of life. It might be also that I’m not very keen on the coming of age kind of novels. A bit too much is talked about weddings and jewellery and dresses. It was, obviously, a representation of the women’s role in society and in a one that was gearing towards a more fundamentalist one. I think more introspection could have been better, would have made her appear more insightful and give less the sensation of a spoiled brat.

The ending is interesting, but I was expecting it from the moment she gave the letter of where she wants to live and work, which happens months before the end of the novel. While predictable it was enjoyable to know that this is how it ended.

The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes-ish
Published by: Hoopoe Fiction
Year it was published: 2017 (first published in 1960)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Novel
Pages: 384

About the author: Al Zayyat was born in Egypt, in 1923. She earned her BA in English in 1946 from Cairo University and her PhD at the same university in 1957. With Inji Efflatoun she founded The League of University and Institutes’ Young Women in 1945.
She was a professor of English at the Girls College of Ain Shams University and served as the director of the Egyptian Arts Academy.
Two novels are translated to English, The Owner of the House and The Open Door. The latter, published in 1960, was strikingly modern for its time, both for its use of colloquial Egyptian Arabic and for its depiction of the main character’s political and sexual awakening. The novel begins in 1946 and ends in 1956, with the Suez Crisis. It was also turned into a popular film. Al-Zayyat also wrote many essays on women and critiques as well as reviews of novels and political happenings.
She died of cancer at age 73 in Cairo in 1996.
Website & Social Media Links: –



2 thoughts on “The Open Door by Latifa al-Zayyat”

    • I never liked coming of age stories, not even as a teenager, so that might have made my review more negative. I finished it because it is a modern classic by an Egyptian writer, so that made it worth reading for me.

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