Late for Tea at the Deer Palace
'Tamara Chalabi is a writer of exquisite talents. Her Late for Tea at the Deer Palace is a magical book of imagination and memory. She has achieved with... the world of her family and the world of Iraq, what the great Latin American authors have done in their world. An author coming into her own, Tamara Chalabi will redefine English writing in the Arab world.' Fouad Ajami, author of Dream Palace of the Arabs
'Tamara Chalabi is... placed at a historical juncture... one that grew out of the void of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Her family's story allows us into the mapping of Iraq... Tamara's story is really the story of modern Iraq.'
Justine Hardy, author of The Wonder House
'I think it's an admirable endeavour to have Iraq addressed by someone who is in so many ways able to approach it from two worlds: old bourgeois Iraq versus new lumpen Iraq; female Iraq versus masked male Iraq; cosmopolitan Iraq versus sectarian Iraq; British Iraq versus Americanised Iraq... In my opinion, Tamara Chalabi has the stuff, in every sense, that is needful to undertake this.' Christopher Hitchens
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 formidable grandparents.
In Late for Tea at the Deer Palace Tamara explores her extraordinary family's history in this beautiful, passionate and troubled land. 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.
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 until the bloody events of the 1958 Revolution overturned her life, to Tamara's own story, that of a rootless daughter of a family in exile, longing to return to a land she had never known, Chalabi takes us on an unforgettable and eye-opening journey.
When Tamara finally visited her 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.
Like Jung Chang's Wild Swans, 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.
Tamara Chalabi is a Beirut born Lebanese-Iraqi writer, whose paternal family was exiled from Iraq in 1958. She grew up and was educated in the Middle East, Europe and America and went to boarding school in the UK. She studied at Brown University followed by an MPhil at Cambridge University and a PhD in History and the Middle East from Harvard University. Her first book, The Shi'is of Jabal'Amil and the New Lebanon: 1918-1943 was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2006. She has written for the Sunday Times, New Republic, Wall Street Journal, Slate and Prospect on war, culture, encounters and identities. She is a co-founder of the Ali Wardi History Prize in Baghdad, for a work of research, and is also the executive director of the Abdul Hadi Chalabi Foundation. She lives between Baghdad, Istanbul and Beirut.