The Philistine

Leila Marshy

March 2018

Nadia Eid doesn't know it yet, but she's about to change her life. It's the end of the ‘80s and she hasn’t seen her Palestinian father since he left Montreal years ago to take a job in Egypt, promising to bring her with him. But now she’s twenty-five and he’s missing in action, so she takes matters into her own hands. Booking a short vacation from her boring job and Québecois boyfriend, she calls her father from the Nile Hilton in downtown Cairo. But nothing goes as planned and, stumbling around, Nadia wanders into an art gallery where she meets Manal, a young Egyptian artist who becomes first her guide and then her lover. 

Through this unexpected relationship, Nadia rediscovers her roots, her language, and her ambitions, as her father demonstrates the unavoidable destiny of becoming a Philistine – the Arabic word for Palestinian. With Manal’s career poised to take off and her father’s secret life revealed, the First Intifada erupts across the border.

Watch the book trailer here.


Montrealer Leila Marshy is of Palestinian-Newfoundland heritage—she can tell a good joke, but it bombs. She has been a filmmaker, a baker, an app designer, a marketer, a farmer, and editor of online culture journal Rover Arts. She founded the Friends of Hutchison Street, a groundbreaking community group bringing Hasidic and non-Hasidic neighbours together in dialogue. She has published stories and poetry in Canadian and American journals and anthologies. The Philistine is her first novel. 

$19.95 | ISBN: 9781988130705

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What they say
Ottawa Review of Books

6 March 2018

Leila Marshy's The Philistine, is "eloquently told in impeccable prose." The first review for Leila's wonderful first novel! 
Thank you, Ian Thomas Shaw and Ottawa Review of Books


“Leila Marshy beautifully captures what it's like to be at once deeply rooted and displaced, fiercely committed to truth, while enabling the lies that lovers tell.  A sweet and bitter coming-of-age story that spans – and transgresses – sexuality, culture, and countries.” – Ann-Marie MacDonald 

"Leila Marshy illuminates love and identity in the streets of Cairo in a way that makes you feel you’ve watched her scenes through a high-definition kaleidoscope.” – Kathleen Winter (Annabel, Lost in September)

“This accomplished first novel gives us the vibrant story of Nadia’s passionate love affair with an Egyptian woman, which compels Nadia to stay in the city long enough to rediscover her father and herself. The novel delicately hints at the societal tensions that will lead to the 2011 Egyptian Revolution while depicting a rich and surprising Cairo rarely seen.” – Leilah Nadir (The Orange Trees of Baghdad)


Montreal Review of Books
Danielle Barkley

24 March 2018

Excellent review of Leila Marshy's first novel, The Philistine, in the Montreal Review of Books

"Nadia’s recognition that her sexuality is more fluid than she had previously understood reinforces that perhaps everything about her is likewise mutable. Marshy’s controlled prose underscores this complexity: “‘I guess I’ll stay in Cairo as long as it takes.’ Then [Nadia] added, realizing it could be anything: ‘Whatever it is.’” The beauty of The Philistine is the novel’s ability to recognize and celebrate journeying across places and into one’s self, even when the destination is perpetually shifting.


CBC HomeRun, April 18, 2018
Richard King

18 April 2018

Thanks, Richard King, for your review of Leila Marshy's novel, The Philistine,  this afternoon on CBC Radio Homerun -- and for this Tweet:

@cbcHomerun we raved about Leila Marshy's novel The Philistine a beautifully written novel set in Cairo. Readers will love Nadia as she navigates the Cairine art scene on a voyage of self-discovery. @haikuboxer @LL_Publishing


Quill & Quire, June 2018
Piali Roy

June 2018

Set in the late 1980s around the time of the first Palestinian Intifada, Leila Marshy’s debut novel is a coming-of-age story about Nadia, a naive Montrealer who cannot decide whether she is Palestinian or Canadian. Bored with work and her reliable Québécois boyfriend, she decides to go to Cairo on a short trip to surprise the Palestinian father who has been absent from her life for half a decade.

At first, the city is a disappointment to Nadia. Her father, who abandoned Canada for failing him as an immigrant, feels distant; as it turns out, he has his own secrets. Cairo is “exhausting and demanding,” but Nadia finds a refuge at the Nile Hilton. A chance encounter introduces Nadia to Manal, an art gallery assistant and aspiring artist with dreams of a scholarship to Paris. Nadia is immediately drawn to the woman and life in the gallery, finding both to be a steadying presence.

As Nadia slips into a relationship with Manal, she is torn between returning home to Montreal and reconciling with her father. On a whim, she opts to stay; she moves in with Manal and her family but keeps their affair a secret. As Nadia yearns for connection – to family, her background, and a life with her new lover – she finds out that her father is preparing to leave her again, this time for the occupied territories where the Intifada is heating up. Nadia is now faced with a new decision: return to Montreal, remain in Cairo with a wavering Manal, or follow her father, whom she is finally starting to understand?

Marshy covers a lot of ground, from the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s list of injured Palestinians to a tourist’s view of the Pyramids. But the push-pull claims of identity dominate the novel. Marshy captures the dissonance of Nadia’s feelings – being at home with Egyptian culture yet simultaneously guilty for her lack of fluency in Arabic. At the same time, notwithstanding the fact that Nadia chafes at her mother’s staid Scottish upbringing, the strength of Quebec’s claim on her is left strangely unexplored.

Despite the passionate love affair between Nadia and Manal, the novel keeps its emo­tions in check. What The Philistine does, instead, is address themes of identity, sexuality, dispossession, and privilege with care and sensitivity.

-- Piali Roy, Quill & Quire 


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