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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’, 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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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’, 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    At first glance, Late for Tea at the Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family appears to be a typical refugee memoir. But dig a bit deeper and it is something completely different. Tamara Chalabi had never been to Iraq until she was almost 30 years old. But her family had been rich and famous and powerful in the country for the past few generations. Though they were Shias, they flourished under Ottoman rule and then made alliances with the British. The book is a memoir of the Chalabi fami At first glance, Late for Tea at the Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family appears to be a typical refugee memoir. But dig a bit deeper and it is something completely different. Tamara Chalabi had never been to Iraq until she was almost 30 years old. But her family had been rich and famous and powerful in the country for the past few generations. Though they were Shias, they flourished under Ottoman rule and then made alliances with the British. The book is a memoir of the Chalabi family and of Iraq. It's a really great document of life in pre-revolutionary Iraq. Tamara writes really well and explores her culture quite deeply, giving us interesting insights into Iraqi family structures and interactions. She creates an idyllic world around her family's history and weaves in Iraq's history into it quite effectively. But don't get too attached to the Chalabi family just yet. Despite the troubles they faced, most of the characters remained insanely entitled. From Bibi (Tamara's grandmother) berating her husband for trying to prepare baklava to many family members moaning about being 'exiled' from their homeland while living in the lap of luxury in London, you can tell these were not your run of the mill refugees. They somehow retained the wealth they always had and none of the family members went without. Not even without the expensive antique carpets that Hadi (Tamara's grandfather) collected! Though most of the Middle East and much of the colonised world thought Gamal Abdel Nasser's triumphant victory over the Suez Canal was a turning point in the history of the world, the Chalabi family was raging about it. Nasser's massive land reforms and nationalisation policies as well as his affiliation with the Non-Aligned Movement put him on a different political league altogether from the aristocratic and opportunistic Chalabis who became friendly with whomever had power. Much of the middle portion of the book was a diatribe against Nasser, which is when I began to take off the rose-tinted glasses and look at the narrative more carefully. And this would be required because by the end of the book, you get to the Iraq war - a war orchestrated by Iraq's greatest traitor, Ahmed Chalabi, Tamara's father. The author airily waves away all the accusations against him of embezzlement, espionage, and warmongering, and instead presents him as a patriot who only wants to help Iraq. She frames his role in the war as only an activist trying to rescue the minorities from Saddam Hussein. She omits to mention that it was his lies about WMDs in Iraq that gave momentum to the illegal American war. She also conveniently fails to even touch upon all the meaty posts held by Chalabi in the aftermath of the war - Interim Minister of Oil, Deputy Prime Minister, and so on, until he fails to win elections. But as Tamara mentions, this is not her father's book. So much so that there is very little about him and a lot of whitewashing. The author has a great knack of choosing anecdotes that were interesting. Even when you were thinking that these people are the scum of the earth, you were interested in what they were doing. I would love to rate this book higher, but in deference to all the poor citizens and refugees of Iraq, who lost so much under British bootlicking royal reign that the Chalabis supported, and subsequent harsh reign of Saddam and the unnecessary war orchestrated by Ahmed Chalabi, I am knocking off one star.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Terry Mulligan

    It's important to differentiate between how well parts of Late for Tea at the Deer Palace are written and how much I disliked the people Tamara Chalabi writes about, namely, her family. Except for her grandfather, Hadi, they're all unsympathetic, which begs the question: is the author aware of that or is she as entitled and out of touch, as the three generations she portrays, starting with the main character and matriarch, Bibi. At one point, when war breaks out, the family temporarily relocates It's important to differentiate between how well parts of Late for Tea at the Deer Palace are written and how much I disliked the people Tamara Chalabi writes about, namely, her family. Except for her grandfather, Hadi, they're all unsympathetic, which begs the question: is the author aware of that or is she as entitled and out of touch, as the three generations she portrays, starting with the main character and matriarch, Bibi. At one point, when war breaks out, the family temporarily relocates and must live without servants. Bibi becomes enraged to see her husband, Hadi, making baklava for the family. In much of the book, Chalabi does an excellent job of telling her family's story, while seamlessly weaving in clear explanations of Iraq's complex history, politics and ethnic grievances (often stemming from the Sunni and Shia split) over religion, territory, oil, leadership, etc. Half way through, I began to wonder about the subtitle: The Lost Dreams of my Iraqi Family. For the Chalabi's, dreams primarily mean living in an intact peaceful Iraq. That peace, and one son's illness that led to blindness, seem to be the only things this family has not been able to control. The Chalabi's were Middle Eastern royalty. They built palaces at will. After one was erected and Bibi didn't like it, they simply built another one. Perhaps it's the custom in Iraq, but the Chalabi's don't use their vast fortune to make life better for the less well off. They keep it within the family. The one exception was an act of generosity by Hadi. In keeping with the theme of Chalabi's getting what they want, Ahmad, the author's father was obsessed with ridding his country of Saddam. Ahmad is also the Iraqi insider who's been accused of feeding the United States false intelligence on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Whether he's partly responsible for our rush to war and the subsequent deaths of hundreds of thousands of American and Iraqis, I don't know, but the Chalabi's always seem to get what they want. By Terry Baker Mulligan (Sugar Hill Where the Sun Rose Over Harlem)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Inasirimavo

    This was the book I was really struggling with. It’s not because the book is poorly written or hard to read (quite the opposite), I was struggling with my inner thoughts and my own opinions of the people Chalabi wrote about, which were (most of the time) in contrast with the picture Chalabi painted throughout the book. But that is exactly why I wanted to read it and why I feel the need to write about it. My first reservation towards this book stemmed from the fact that Tamara’s father is Ahmed Ch This was the book I was really struggling with. It’s not because the book is poorly written or hard to read (quite the opposite), I was struggling with my inner thoughts and my own opinions of the people Chalabi wrote about, which were (most of the time) in contrast with the picture Chalabi painted throughout the book. But that is exactly why I wanted to read it and why I feel the need to write about it. My first reservation towards this book stemmed from the fact that Tamara’s father is Ahmed Chalabi, who helped US government in launching war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (for more about him, you can read Aram Roston’s book The Man Who Pushed America To War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi). After years in exile, Ahmad Chalabi entered Baghdad in 2003 as a would-be president of the new Iraq but he never reached that goal. In Late For Tea At The Deer Palace, Tamara Chalabi trys to stand outside her father’s shadow. In the first pages of the book, she writes: “Everybody asks me about my father. He has been labelled a maverick, a charlatan, a genious. He has been named as the source of supposedly faulty intelligence that led America into the war in Iraq. He has been called a triple agent for the Us, Iran and Israel. But this is MY story.” Still, the whole story of Late For Tea At The Deer Palace is based on memories of Chalabi family, so keeping a distance from certain aspects of her father’s story and his character was just impossible. The history of the Chalabi family is quite amazing. Pre-Saddam, the Chalabis held high rank: they were prominent Shia Muslims, part of the wealthy power elite, occupying positions of prestige and responsibility from the Ottoman Empire to the time of the national government... The main character of the book is Bibi, Ahmed’s mother, a matriarch who’s quite spoiled and a snob, but also very fierce and determined in controling the lives of the others in the family. Her royal status was always extremely important to her, and the event that might illustrate this the best was when the family temporarily relocated and had to live without servants, in an apartment in London. Bibi was enraged to see her husband, Hadi, making baklava for the family, telling him she “didn’t marry a confectioner.” It was so hard for me to relate to these people and to feel any kind of compassion. Tamara’s writing is gripping, captivating, but her main characters were just not that easy to identify with. I felt more sympathy towards their servants who were shortly mentioned from time to time. I didn’t have the same experience when reading Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, although the story was also from the perspective of a privileged family and a person who was part of the elite. In Chang’s book I felt a deep awareness of that fact (being privileged fact) and the great modesty of her family, while in the story of Chalabis – there is not a lot of that, and that makes it a little repulsive. All that being said, I still think this is an important book and I would recommend reading it. It offers ‘the other side of the story’ on many levels, primarily two: privileged elites versus ‘regular’ masses and exile versus motherland. It is a well-told saga and a whole century of Iraqi culture and history is at times greatly woven into the story. (if you wish, you can read more of my reviews at Middle East Revised).

  4. 5 out of 5

    ManOfLaBook.com

    Late for Tea at the Deer Palace : The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Fam­ily by Tamara Cha­l­abi is a book which was hard to clas­sify. Part his­tory, part cul­tural, part fic­tional and non-fictional fam­ily saga and all about a bygone era. The book chron­i­cles the jour­ney of the promi­nent Iraqi Cha­l­abi fam­ily from the ech­e­lons of power and busi­ness to hav­ing to flee from their coun­try. After reach­ing the high­est pin­na­cles of suc­cess in busi­ness and soci­ety, they were left with com­pa Late for Tea at the Deer Palace : The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Fam­ily by Tamara Cha­l­abi is a book which was hard to clas­sify. Part his­tory, part cul­tural, part fic­tional and non-fictional fam­ily saga and all about a bygone era. The book chron­i­cles the jour­ney of the promi­nent Iraqi Cha­l­abi fam­ily from the ech­e­lons of power and busi­ness to hav­ing to flee from their coun­try. After reach­ing the high­est pin­na­cles of suc­cess in busi­ness and soci­ety, they were left with com­par­a­tively lit­tle when forced to immi­grate. Focus­ing on Bibi and Hadi, the author’s grand­par­ents, Ms. Cha­l­abi tells a rich tale with an uncanny abil­ity to bring these stranges to life and make them, well, family. I believe that Late for Tea at the Deer Palace by Tamara Cha­l­abi is the first book I read because I have heard of the author’s father. I rec­og­nize Ahmad Chalabi’s name from years of liv­ing in the Mid­dle East as well as his tem­po­rary high pro­file dur­ing The Gulf War where he was accused of many things, includ­ing being a triple agent giv­ing faulty intel­li­gence. How­ever, the story of Ahmad Cha­l­abis rise and fall is the least inter­est­ing part in this fas­ci­nat­ing book. The first feel­ing that struck me while read­ing this book is jeal­ousy. If ever I’d write a book about the his­tory of my fam­ily, Late for Tea at the Deer Palace would be my guide. This beau­ti­fully writ­ten story mixes his­tory and his­tor­i­cal fic­tion (after all, Ms. Cha­l­abi wasn’t privy to per­sonal con­ver­sa­tion between adults) and tells the rich story of the Cha­l­abi fam­ily through an intro­duc­tion to Iraqi his­tory, Iraqi soci­ety and cul­ture in a mag­nif­i­cent way. What Ms. Cha­l­abi did was take sto­ries we all hear as kids, how are parents/grandparents or rel­a­tives did some­thing amaz­ing or funny and weaved it into a book while giv­ing his­tor­i­cal con­text. How our ances­tors lived through times of trou­ble how they sur­vived (or didn't) and how the fam­ily name will live on. This book should be required read­ing to any per­son who sits down to write his or hers life story for their family. For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leora Wenger

    An engrossing book on the story of an aristocratic family in Iraq, the book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of the Middle East in the past century. Although it is biased toward the author's family, one can certainly appreciate the variety of types of people, attitudes, histories and experiences of those who lived in what was once Mesopotamia or Babylon and is now Iraq. Jews and Israel play a very small role in the book and gives lie to the notion that the Israeli confl An engrossing book on the story of an aristocratic family in Iraq, the book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of the Middle East in the past century. Although it is biased toward the author's family, one can certainly appreciate the variety of types of people, attitudes, histories and experiences of those who lived in what was once Mesopotamia or Babylon and is now Iraq. Jews and Israel play a very small role in the book and gives lie to the notion that the Israeli conflict is what creates unrest in the Middle East.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rima

    Tamara Chalabi's 'Late for Tea at the Deer Palace' is a great way to learn about Iraq's history through family photos and enchanting anecdotes. But be aware that she writes from the perspective of the privileged, aristocratic minority. One critic says it is a great way into learning about a large expanse of Iraqi history from the monarchy to the British mandate. But not all in Iraq were in privileged situations as the author so how can it represent the whole of Iraq. Even more problematic is that Tamara Chalabi's 'Late for Tea at the Deer Palace' is a great way to learn about Iraq's history through family photos and enchanting anecdotes. But be aware that she writes from the perspective of the privileged, aristocratic minority. One critic says it is a great way into learning about a large expanse of Iraqi history from the monarchy to the British mandate. But not all in Iraq were in privileged situations as the author so how can it represent the whole of Iraq. Even more problematic is that the author claims this too... As a text, and as a reader with embarrassedly very little knowledge of Iraq, I did find it enjoyable. Learning about chalabi's family. But I did find it unnerving that she was presenting her family anecdotes as accurate but how can she possibly retell her ancestors history perfectly? So the story is beautiful and tragic but flawed with narratology issues.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Khaled Al Jaser

    One of the best books I have read indeed. Tamara; however, devotes more than half of the book so mesmerizingly telling the story of Iraq since the early 1900s until the fall of the monarchy and her family’s subsequent exile all beautifully depicted in and told through her family's biography- all of the history, politics, wars, the fall of the ottoman empire, the creation of Iraq and the subsequent events are beautifully and vividly sketched through the story of this family, that is through the h One of the best books I have read indeed. Tamara; however, devotes more than half of the book so mesmerizingly telling the story of Iraq since the early 1900s until the fall of the monarchy and her family’s subsequent exile all beautifully depicted in and told through her family's biography- all of the history, politics, wars, the fall of the ottoman empire, the creation of Iraq and the subsequent events are beautifully and vividly sketched through the story of this family, that is through the human beings who lived and experienced those events; most important of all the reader can clearly see how modernity affected the society, its people, norms, ethos, way of life. The writing style, lyrics, prose and words are no less impressive. Tamara then takes the reader to her family’s exile in London then Beirut where the civil war there forced them to go back to London- her father moves to Jordan then London then eventually back to Iraq. Events that followed the fall of the monarchy in Iraq are very well documented but not so vividly sketched as the ones before the fall of the monarchy. Also, I wish she had written more on the events that followed the fall of Sadam which is not the case- for that I recommend the following book for whoever is interested in the History of Iraq: Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Nevertheless, she tells a story that must be read to understand current Iraq.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Miranda R.

    Wow. An insightful read. At times it’s almost hard to believe this is non-fiction, not to mention the story of someone’s family. But to me, that just means it’s very well written. I cared a lot about the fates of the Chalabi family members and the injustices they faced, along with those of the Iraqi people. As an American, this was extremely eye-opening. I have common sense, so I knew our government couldn’t possibly be telling us the whole truth, but reading an account of the plight the people Wow. An insightful read. At times it’s almost hard to believe this is non-fiction, not to mention the story of someone’s family. But to me, that just means it’s very well written. I cared a lot about the fates of the Chalabi family members and the injustices they faced, along with those of the Iraqi people. As an American, this was extremely eye-opening. I have common sense, so I knew our government couldn’t possibly be telling us the whole truth, but reading an account of the plight the people of this region faced for over 100 years was shocking and heartbreaking. A definite recommendation.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Tamara Chalabi is the daughter of the man whom critics of the Iraqi War believe gave tainted information on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Her story doesn't cover that story but of her upper class wealthy family through the generations and that of Iraq which was created in 1921 as a British protectorate. The family begins with a couple who live through World War I when the Ottoman Empire chose to support Germany and Iraq was the province of Mesopotamia. After the war, the British took over Tamara Chalabi is the daughter of the man whom critics of the Iraqi War believe gave tainted information on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Her story doesn't cover that story but of her upper class wealthy family through the generations and that of Iraq which was created in 1921 as a British protectorate. The family begins with a couple who live through World War I when the Ottoman Empire chose to support Germany and Iraq was the province of Mesopotamia. After the war, the British took over the area though during the war they had hinted at independence via Lawrence of Arabia. Hussein, from Damascus, was refused creating an independent country there and was allowed to become a king of Iraq. There was trouble because of the fact it had never been a country before and there are numerous ethnic groups in the area. The Chalabi family is able to keep its status and the men get employment in the government. World War II brings distress because of a conflict between people who don't like British rule and those who are against the Nazis. A treaty arranged for self rule contains some volatile provisions about which lands will stay British and what land will be Iraqi. It also promises that Britain will not support Zionist rule in Israel. Riots break out as people object including Iraqi Jews who are unhappy with the non-support of Israel. Later the royal family is assassinated in 1958 and the Chalabi family flees or hunkers down to survive. The next few decades are spent in Britain, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. They are trying to move back to Iraq but that is difficult too. People change and countries change.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janelle

    I read this for a learning series with which my library is involved (Conflict and Resistance in the Middle East). We're reading about Iraq this fall, and this book is a memoir by a member of a prominent (or once-prominent) Baghdad family. This book has much to recommend, but Chalabi's writing isn't it. The memoir grows stronger as the timeline hurtles closer to the author's own life, but still, I was extremely aware that she was relaying patchy stories told and re-told by family members. Occasion I read this for a learning series with which my library is involved (Conflict and Resistance in the Middle East). We're reading about Iraq this fall, and this book is a memoir by a member of a prominent (or once-prominent) Baghdad family. This book has much to recommend, but Chalabi's writing isn't it. The memoir grows stronger as the timeline hurtles closer to the author's own life, but still, I was extremely aware that she was relaying patchy stories told and re-told by family members. Occasionally the writing took off, but more often it was stilted and awkward. The inconsistencies of character (particularly with Bibi, the grandmother, who is portrayed as both forward-thinking and hopelessly dated) could have been handled far more deftly by another writer. It may be that the author was simply too close to this story (and oddly, at the same time, also too far away from it, having never lived in Iraq herself). Still, I learned much about Iraq's history. I didn't realize just how recently it became the country it is now, and under what influences and interests the borders were drawn. The current events we hear in the news have a much stronger context for me now. The characters in the book also helped me better understand Iraqi culture. Ultimately, I would recommend this book because reading it helped me learn a lot about a place of which I knew little. I'd love to hear if anyone has other recommendations for books that help us understand Iraq, particularly ones which are more literary.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    I love history but I really don't know too much about the Middle East. Furthermore, I don't know too much about Iraq outside of the wars of the past couple decades. Late for Tea at the Deer Palace gives a picture of the people of Iraq before the time that I'm familiar with. The Chalabi family was one of the most prominent families in Baghdad during the beginning of the 20th century. This family is not the average Iraqi family. They are privileged and some of the family members were in the upper I love history but I really don't know too much about the Middle East. Furthermore, I don't know too much about Iraq outside of the wars of the past couple decades. Late for Tea at the Deer Palace gives a picture of the people of Iraq before the time that I'm familiar with. The Chalabi family was one of the most prominent families in Baghdad during the beginning of the 20th century. This family is not the average Iraqi family. They are privileged and some of the family members were in the upper echelons of Iraqi society, a very unique point of view. Eventually the country will become too chaotic for any of the family to hold on. Will they ever be able to return home? I thought it was so cool to see the changes in the country of Iraq through the eyes of the family. The book covers from before WWI to almost the present day. This time period was a great time of change for the Middle East and especially for Iraq itself. It was so interesting to see the juxtaposition between the changes in the country and the changes in the family. I do wish that we got to know more about Tamara's journey from hearing all of the family stories, writing down all of the stories and going back to where her family came from. I would have liked to know a lot more about the connections between where she is today and the family stories that she recounts. At its core, this book is a really good family story perfect for those interested in the crossroads between history and personal stories.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ru

    I enjoyed reading this book I’ll give you that and I rated it highly a year ago however after reading about Tamara’s father and his collusion with the US on the Iraqi invasion I’m feeling a bit disgusted about how well she painted these characters or omitted them. To learn more read this: https://www.bookforum.com/print/1704/... I enjoyed reading this book I’ll give you that and I rated it highly a year ago however after reading about Tamara’s father and his collusion with the US on the Iraqi invasion I’m feeling a bit disgusted about how well she painted these characters or omitted them. To learn more read this: https://www.bookforum.com/print/1704/...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Esra

    The book was very particular in that you learn about Iraqi history thru this very controversial, upper class family to which Ahmed Chalabi belongs, who is the Iraqi politician responsible of leading United States into war with Iraq, none less than the father of the writer. I surely learned great deal about the regions history from the book but somehow remain puzzled how could anyone be such a traitor against his homeland.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I guess I'm just bored by stories about the day to day activities of the fantastically rich. When I read about someone--in real life, in the modern day--getting shaved by his butler in the parlor of his mansion, I can't help rolling my eyes. I guess I'm just bored by stories about the day to day activities of the fantastically rich. When I read about someone--in real life, in the modern day--getting shaved by his butler in the parlor of his mansion, I can't help rolling my eyes.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daphne Gutierrez

    Interesting to learn so much more than I ever knew about Iraq, and the Middle East back to the beginning of the 20th century. However, the author's (Chalabi) family's wealth and the fact that she is part of the family she is writing about makes it challenging to decipher the biases or agendas in the book. Interesting to learn so much more than I ever knew about Iraq, and the Middle East back to the beginning of the 20th century. However, the author's (Chalabi) family's wealth and the fact that she is part of the family she is writing about makes it challenging to decipher the biases or agendas in the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Littia

    Well-written and enjoyable to read, but I understand the comments by other reviewers who found some of the people to be unsympathetic. Still, most of them were treated lovingly by the author, as they should be given that she is writing about her own family history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fabienne Bogle

    An astounding compilation of geographical, political, and familal history. A slow read for me as I tried to take time to learn the history of a region with which I had no prior knowledge. Greatly appreciated the detail and writing style of the author.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kimm

    To date, I have found no book that has captured my interest in Iraqi culture better than Late for Tea at the Deer Palace. It was simply amazing. The story is a personal history of Tamara Chalabi’s family for over the past hundred years. Her sensitivity and respect to those who have preceded her shows through every chapter of her delicate writings. Chalabi explores how her family has adapted to the ever-changing political climate of Iraq. From the Ottomon Empire to the fall of Saddam Hussein. The To date, I have found no book that has captured my interest in Iraqi culture better than Late for Tea at the Deer Palace. It was simply amazing. The story is a personal history of Tamara Chalabi’s family for over the past hundred years. Her sensitivity and respect to those who have preceded her shows through every chapter of her delicate writings. Chalabi explores how her family has adapted to the ever-changing political climate of Iraq. From the Ottomon Empire to the fall of Saddam Hussein. The Chalabi family is built on its connections to the community. Many of her family members have held prominent positions of influence in both the public and private sector. The men have each risen to their own measure of success—but it is the women in her story that fascinated me the most. Chalabi is blessed with a legacy of strong women. Some dominating, some accommodating—all very aware of, and sensitive to, the political dynamics of the family unit, as well as the landscape of Iraq. With each generation comes a new set of personalities and relationships. Chalabi’s depiction of each person generates a vivid image of everyday life and happenings. As a reader, you celebrate triumph and mourn tragedy along with her family. Something I can’t help but do when watching the news is pick a figure on the screen and try to imagine what their life must be like. I’d like to think that if I while I was watching a segment on the current state of affairs in Iraq and I picked a person—Late for Tea in the Deer Palace could be the story of their life. A story about who their family was and where they came from. What is it that made them so unique? All of these questions could be answered in this book. It feels as real as if we were sitting and having a cup of tea…with Chalabi telling me the story of her life. I heartedly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Middle East. It’s not so much about the politics of the country (although that plays an important part in the book because of its impact on the Chalabi family), but more about how one extended family coped and survived through some of the most impacting historical events that this world has seen during the twentieth century.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sunni

    I read this for Gettysburg College's Middle East book/film/lecture series. As I started this program I felt like I "needed" to learn about the Middle East; after this book I felt like I "wanted" to learn more. Chalabi interweaves her family history with the history of Iraq. Although her writing is strongest as a historian, her narrative helped me through the dense, complicated story of the country. This is not an easy read, I relied heavily on the excellent index and family tree supplied. Stay wi I read this for Gettysburg College's Middle East book/film/lecture series. As I started this program I felt like I "needed" to learn about the Middle East; after this book I felt like I "wanted" to learn more. Chalabi interweaves her family history with the history of Iraq. Although her writing is strongest as a historian, her narrative helped me through the dense, complicated story of the country. This is not an easy read, I relied heavily on the excellent index and family tree supplied. Stay with it, don't be daunted by the confusion caused by so many men having the same name, or the disorientation in dealing with names and places in an unfamiliar tongue. It will start to get clearer. She really unravels the foundations of the country, showing it from the perspective of an elite, educated, well-connected family that, in the end, is not immune to the political upheavals caused by both external and internal forces. She also gives glimpses of people or events that you might want to learn more about on your own (e.g., Gertrude Bell, Lawrence of Arabia, King Faisal, Taha Hussein). And of course Tamara's father, Ahmed Chalabi, the controversial figure behind the reporting of "weapons of mass destruction." She does not reveal much of Ahmed but certainly lays the foundation for what may have inspired his political actions. This books is an interesting place to start your journey into the Middle East. It certainly lent itself to a lively discussion in our series.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danni

    I was surprised and delighted by the view of Iraq offered by Tamara Chalabi, daughter of Ahmad Chalabi, a leading opposition figure to Saddam Hussein's regime. She begins her tale of history and family in the early 1900's, with her great-grandfather, the influential Abdul Hussein and the British occupation of Mesopotamia during World War I; from which Modern day Iraq was born. In the style of Iraq's oral traditions, the memoir encompasses the points of view and life events of several of Chalabi' I was surprised and delighted by the view of Iraq offered by Tamara Chalabi, daughter of Ahmad Chalabi, a leading opposition figure to Saddam Hussein's regime. She begins her tale of history and family in the early 1900's, with her great-grandfather, the influential Abdul Hussein and the British occupation of Mesopotamia during World War I; from which Modern day Iraq was born. In the style of Iraq's oral traditions, the memoir encompasses the points of view and life events of several of Chalabi's relatives including her father, aunts, grandfather and her grandmother, Bibi. (Who I loved from her initial appearance in the family's story.) While she tells of the events occurring around the family in Iraq, the heart and soul of the novel lies within the lives, loves and losses of the family. This story is neither a dry historical look at the country's past nor a boring slideshow of a family's history. To me, this memoir is a celebration of a family and the country they loved, were forced from and their eventual homecoming many years later. A masterful weaving of Chalabi's personal and political feelings, it offers insights into the hows and whys of Iraq's past as well as its current situation. It is an eye opening and insightful look at a misunderstood country and its people, which I would recommend wholeheartedly to those interested in history, the middle east or just a good read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tricia

    Probably more like 2.5 stars. The book was interesting, but something was missing. It was a history of the Chalabi family, starting with husband and wife Abdul Hadi and Bibi (grandparents of the author). It is also sort of a history of modern Iraq, as experienced by one segment of society, and this is where it seems to fall short. I wanted more connections, or larger lessons abstracted away from the details of who married whom and which woman cooked the star dish for the banquet. For example, at Probably more like 2.5 stars. The book was interesting, but something was missing. It was a history of the Chalabi family, starting with husband and wife Abdul Hadi and Bibi (grandparents of the author). It is also sort of a history of modern Iraq, as experienced by one segment of society, and this is where it seems to fall short. I wanted more connections, or larger lessons abstracted away from the details of who married whom and which woman cooked the star dish for the banquet. For example, at one point we read that the family will pay politically for a snub during the process of selecting eldest daughter Thamina's husband - but unless I totally missed it, the author never returns to this. Who exacted the revenge and what effect did it have? We do encounter undercurrents that are obvious in the more recent history of the region, but these nuggets are really hard to extract. (The books starts with a chronology of the family (marriages and births) and major historical events. I was regularly frustrated trying to keep names straight, wishing for a family tree to go along with the list. It was only once I was nearly done that I saw it was also in the front matter, as were 2 maps. How did I overlook them multiple times?? Both would have helped with keeping various things straight, but would not have addressed my major complaint, the lack of a grand unifying theme.)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Don O'goodreader

    Late for Tea at the Deer Palace by Tamara Chalabi is a family history/memoir that reads like a James Michener novel of the last 100 years of Iraqi history -- by following the ups and downs of the Chalabi family. This is a must-read for anyone the least bit interested in the Iraqi situation. The story begins before Iraq: when Mesopotamia was a province of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the 19th century this had been the case for over 400 years. While thousands of years ago, this area had Late for Tea at the Deer Palace by Tamara Chalabi is a family history/memoir that reads like a James Michener novel of the last 100 years of Iraqi history -- by following the ups and downs of the Chalabi family. This is a must-read for anyone the least bit interested in the Iraqi situation. The story begins before Iraq: when Mesopotamia was a province of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the 19th century this had been the case for over 400 years. While thousands of years ago, this area had been the cradle of western civilization, by the early 1900s, it was a patchwork of tribal territories between the Ottoman powers in Turkey and the Persian powers in Iran. While predominantly Arab (vs Persian) and Muslim (vs Christian), the popular sentiment was up for grabs with with minorities favoring the West (Britain or US) or the East (Communists), or a smattering of other allegiances, such as smaller religious groups and fascism.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shea

    An excellent insight into 'the other side of the story'. It is not inciting, merely explaining. I could, however, see some weak 'argument' about how evil or nice some public figures were. I.e. A public figure was hated because he was ruthless but the example of violent deed was actually done by someone else. Or a public figure was well-loved because he had a good relationship with one of the Chalabi family members (instead of say, a contribution towards the society). I enjoyed the story, often for An excellent insight into 'the other side of the story'. It is not inciting, merely explaining. I could, however, see some weak 'argument' about how evil or nice some public figures were. I.e. A public figure was hated because he was ruthless but the example of violent deed was actually done by someone else. Or a public figure was well-loved because he had a good relationship with one of the Chalabi family members (instead of say, a contribution towards the society). I enjoyed the story, often forgetting that it is a non-fiction. The events- chronicled properly, helping to understand the storyline easier and better. What I hate after reading this book, is the hopeless feeling as I could see how violent, ruthless, irrational, greedy, calculative, selfish, manipulative, insincere, etc. human can be. All reflected by the Chalabi's allies, enemies and even the Chalabi family themselves.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    A very interesting albeit often depressing read. Initially filled with the sounds, smells and sights of what sounds like a wonderful life. If anything this book shows that you can be as rich and powerful as a King or a Dictator and still have a horrific end for you and your family. You can be a wealthy, powerful and politically connected businessman and come from a prestigious family. And It can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. The time spent praying and visiting shrines all proves to b A very interesting albeit often depressing read. Initially filled with the sounds, smells and sights of what sounds like a wonderful life. If anything this book shows that you can be as rich and powerful as a King or a Dictator and still have a horrific end for you and your family. You can be a wealthy, powerful and politically connected businessman and come from a prestigious family. And It can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. The time spent praying and visiting shrines all proves to be no protection from anything. As civil wars, invasions, dictators and religious infighting turns your country into a dust bowl of suffering and spreads your family around the globe looking for somewhere safe to live, whilst always yearning to return to an almost mystical land of a different time. A true story of hope and loss, power, corruption and lies.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Hager

    I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a history of Iraq and, more specifically, one specific family through the generations. I always find that I prefer reading about history when the history of a land or time is mixed with the history of people. (For example, Gone With the Wind.) The Chalabis were an influential family in Iraq until the late 1950s, when they had to go into exile. For Tamara, it's also about reconciling the Iraq she knows from her family's stories and the Iraq she sees on I really enjoyed reading this book, which is a history of Iraq and, more specifically, one specific family through the generations. I always find that I prefer reading about history when the history of a land or time is mixed with the history of people. (For example, Gone With the Wind.) The Chalabis were an influential family in Iraq until the late 1950s, when they had to go into exile. For Tamara, it's also about reconciling the Iraq she knows from her family's stories and the Iraq she sees on TV. Possibly the most powerful part is where she's at a gathering and someone sings a song her grandmother used to sing and she starts to cry. But how can you be homesick for a place that isn't actually your home? (But you can be.)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Even though it wasn't exactly a page-turner, I learned so much about Iraq and its days before Saddam Hussein. It was quite a picturesque storytelling, where at the beginning you can get lost through all the different family members. But towards the second half, it was easier to differentiate the siblings in the Chalabi family. What an honor to have this story shared with us. A family generational story can be really lovely to follow and it definitely helped to learn a history that is not talked Even though it wasn't exactly a page-turner, I learned so much about Iraq and its days before Saddam Hussein. It was quite a picturesque storytelling, where at the beginning you can get lost through all the different family members. But towards the second half, it was easier to differentiate the siblings in the Chalabi family. What an honor to have this story shared with us. A family generational story can be really lovely to follow and it definitely helped to learn a history that is not talked about. It saddens to know how dictatorships, colonization and wars can do to rich vibrant cultures, where a whole generation feels they most identify themselves as communities in exile.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ted Lehmann

    I approached this book with care because Chalabi is the daughter of Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi politician and agitator, who deeply influenced American neo-cons to get into and pursue the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the book provides an interesting insight into the history of a part of the worl that's been important in world history since the dawn of civilization. A combination of family memoir and regional history, the book provides excellent insights, but must also be read with care and consideration I approached this book with care because Chalabi is the daughter of Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi politician and agitator, who deeply influenced American neo-cons to get into and pursue the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the book provides an interesting insight into the history of a part of the worl that's been important in world history since the dawn of civilization. A combination of family memoir and regional history, the book provides excellent insights, but must also be read with care and consideration for the background and history of the author and her family. Read the review I published on my blog here: http://tinyurl.com/8a7h8ma

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Zolkower

    Late for Tea at the Deer Palace is an entertaining read for anyone interested in the lifestyle of wealthy Iraqis from 1913 to the rise of the Ba'athists in Iraq. The characters themselves are not relatable, unless you too have lived in multiple palaces and hobnobbed with royalty. The story is interesting though the history is revisionist, flat and one sided. It also appears editing was thrown to the wind by the end of the book with many obvious typing mistakes though that may be more the editor Late for Tea at the Deer Palace is an entertaining read for anyone interested in the lifestyle of wealthy Iraqis from 1913 to the rise of the Ba'athists in Iraq. The characters themselves are not relatable, unless you too have lived in multiple palaces and hobnobbed with royalty. The story is interesting though the history is revisionist, flat and one sided. It also appears editing was thrown to the wind by the end of the book with many obvious typing mistakes though that may be more the editor than the writer's fault. All around easy book to read, though hardly the average Iraqi perspective of the time period it covered.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    I was very interested in this history of the Chalabi family. As I was reading it, I was reminded of Helene Cooper's _The House at Sugar Beach_ another history of a family (Cooper's family are from Liberia) who had power and prestige in their homeland and were forced to leave it all because of brutal takeovers. I was most interested in the life of Chalabi's Uncle Hassan and wife Jamila. Theirs is an intriguing love story and worthy of its own book. I was very interested in this history of the Chalabi family. As I was reading it, I was reminded of Helene Cooper's _The House at Sugar Beach_ another history of a family (Cooper's family are from Liberia) who had power and prestige in their homeland and were forced to leave it all because of brutal takeovers. I was most interested in the life of Chalabi's Uncle Hassan and wife Jamila. Theirs is an intriguing love story and worthy of its own book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I really liked this book, until the last few chapters. The vast majority of the book covers the life of the Chalabi family in Iraq and I learned a lot about the country's history and the fascinating experiences of the privileged class in Iraq. However, the last chapters deal with the US invasion of Iraq and Tamara Chalabi's feelings about it, which I found to be missing a lot of context and perspective. Read this book, but skip (or skim) the end. I really liked this book, until the last few chapters. The vast majority of the book covers the life of the Chalabi family in Iraq and I learned a lot about the country's history and the fascinating experiences of the privileged class in Iraq. However, the last chapters deal with the US invasion of Iraq and Tamara Chalabi's feelings about it, which I found to be missing a lot of context and perspective. Read this book, but skip (or skim) the end.

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