In this, the second novel of the Cairo Trilogy (although I hesitate to call it that, since I now see the "trilogy" more as a novel in its entirety, which is what Mahfouz apparently preferred it to be), the movement of the narrative is more toward introspection, as we enter the mind of the youngest member of the family, Kamal. Kamal is a philosophically and romantically minded young man, an idealist who wants to be a teacher in spite of his father's strong opposition and the fact that the profession he seeks to enter gets little respect from his friends and the society in which he lives. His openness to the new ideas (such as evolution) stands in direct opposition to his father's staunch defense of the old ways and the old religious beliefs.
While sometimes I found the narrative a bit slow (too much of Kamal's ruminations on the nature of love, for example), I still enjoyed this section of the saga. I got a feel for Mahfouz' world view and a further education on the Middle Eastern mind. Egypt continues in a turmoil which parallels that of the young Kamal. Europe beckons, taking his best friend from him. The Western Influence is a source of pain and curiosity at the same time. More and more the reader comes to see why the Middle East views the West with scepticism and scorn.
Kamal's father begins to slide into infirmity, losing physical strength but not inner passion, and the family will soon no doubt have to deal with the problems related to the possible loss of its patriarch.
As always, well written, compelling narrative, for the most part. I will continue to complete the trilogy by reading "Sugar Street." This family saga is one I want to complete.