The dooors of a traditional Egyptian family home are opened to the reader by N. Mahfouz in "Palace Walk". A loving father sees his well-intentioned strictness backfire in many ways in this novel of family closeness. Amina, a devoted wife and mother, has no qualms about being kept under lock and key by her husband, and has her beliefs confirmed by the disastrous consequences of a secret excursion.
One of the more intriguing characters in the novel is Yasin, eldest son of Al-Sayyid Ahmad, and most likely to follow in his father's footsteps. Passion for music, wine, and women runs unchecked in his blood and, like his father, would rather spend the night in the company of mistresses and friends than with his family.
Fahmy is the intellectual heart of the family and has a devotion to his country's fight for independence that surpasses family ties and respect for his father's wishes. His undercover behavior and quest for martyrdom helps explain modern Muslim fundamentalism.
The sisters Aisha and Khadija are in a race for marriage, complicated by the extreme beauty of the younger sister and the disfiguring nose of the eldest.
Kamal lends a child's perspective to the novel, questioning the norms of Egyptian society and forging a shaky bond with occupying English soldiers. He's the fly on the wall that we'd all like to be, as readers, curious and questioning.
Overall, this is a profoundly intriguing novel that fully penetrates the minds of every character in "Palace Walk", and in doing so provides the reader with a significant portrayal of an Egyptian society steeped in culture and ruled by religion.