The 1980s. Jack, a geologist in Libya is rescued from jail by Bushra, daughter of wealthy Greek/Libyan parents. Their ten-year affair is fraught with difficulties, her political activism, his loveless marriage. They have twins, born in Athens and separated at birth against their parents’ will; Stavros is taken to Benghazi by Bushra’s parents, Emma to London with Jack.
The 2020s. After Russia sweeps through the Balkans, Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean, the UN creates two mandates in Libya; Cyrenaica in the east governed by the Russians, Tripolitania and Fezzan in the west led by the European Defence Alliance (EDA). Tensions in the region are further compounded by an increasingly unstable climate and overwhelming refugee crisis.
2031. Emma’s daughter Isabel joins EDA. After surviving a life-threatening incident on the border, she is forcibly taken into Cyrenaica. Bushra, barely existing in occupied Greece, unexpectedly contacts Jack, who struggles to come to terms with their past. They are shocked to hear from Stavros, long-thought dead, who leads the resistance against the Russians in Cyrenaica and is responsible for Isabel’s abduction.
The effects of history bind family members together as they and Cyrenaica move towards a new future in this thought provoking-novel of love, tragedy and reconciliation.
Benghazi, July 1985
Jack Meredith examined his naked body in the cracked mirror, surprised at how thin and emaciated he’d become in the last few months.
‘Come back to bed, Jack,’ drawled a woman’s drugged voice from the room next door. ‘It’s not light yet.’
He winced. Ignoring her, he pulled on shorts and an old T-shirt over his sweat-drenched body, grabbed his wallet and moved silently through the chaos of her living room. Gingerly unlocking the steel door, he eased back the bolts, hoping she wouldn’t hear, and slipped out.
Without warning, the loudspeaker hanging by its cable from the local minaret crackled into life; the muezzin was calling the faithful to Fajr, the prayer before sunrise. Single-storey whitewashed terraced houses opened directly onto a dimly lit sand-strewn street, devoid of all life save for scavenging dogs fighting over rotting garbage.
When he’d arrived back on local leave four days earlier, Eli had complained that she no longer felt safe in this shadowy part of town. The last of the few foreign nationals had recently moved away, their homes quickly appropriated by members of the murderous Green Brigade, the regime’s henchmen. She was right of course, but this small unkempt place was all she could afford.
He had been in Libya for several months before they’d met. It was during a period when his early optimism had been crushed by the drunken aimlessness of his time spent away from the desert. He’d been living in a small airless apartment in a shared compound just back from the seafront. What might have sounded exotic when writing to his mates back in London was in fact more like an army base – four badly maintained low-rise blocks around a threadbare earthen square.
Being the latest and youngest recruit, he was the only company employee in the compound. He’d befriended several neighbours including a couple of older Greeks and an Armenian, all of whom were drillers. When they could, they spent their leave together in the incestuous rundown overseas club and a couple of illegal bars and brothels masquerading as restaurants. All this had taken its toll on his physical and mental wellbeing. Meeting Eli by chance one morning in the market had been a godsend, dragging him back from certain self-destruction.
A long-legged blond South African in her early thirties, she had recently been deserted by her husband, a cantankerous and abusive Afrikaner. Her residency status was perilous, her future uncertain. She was totally dependent on an unreliable employer for part-time work who was reluctant to get her a work permit. She survived on the scant rewards of a demeaning job, the generosity of a few friends and the unlikely patronage of an old Benghazi family.
Eli was tough, a hard-living woman who displayed no outward vulnerability except to a few intimate friends. She and Jack had a companionable but non-binding friendship which suited them both. Neither sought a long-term relationship, nor could they commit to one. Their exhaustive lovemaking during his week’s leave seemed to satisfy them. They shared books, food and the odd trip to the beach; outside these interests, their time was largely spent in bed. They needed no other human comfort during their time apart.
She had no work for a couple of days, so he was happy to leave her to catch up on her sleep. He set off for the early market and was soon joined by chattering locals, some carrying baskets of bread and couscous, others pushing bicycles loaded with fresh vegetables, oranges and lemons, slabs of fly-infested meat and dried fish, all headed in the same direction.
Thank you, David B P Mayne and Random Things Tours
About the author
David B P Mayne was born and brought up in Ireland and graduated from Trinity College Dublin. For many years he worked for Irish, British and American engineering consultants on large projects throughout Africa, the Middle East, Greece and Russia but is now retired. He has completed two courses with the London School of Journalism; Short Story Writing and Travelling Writing. He now lives in Surrey with his wife.