Birds of the Nile

Birds of the Nile

An Egyptian Adventure

What ex-diplomat Michael Blake wanted was a quiet birding trip up the Nile – he wasn’t expecting a revolution ...


When Michael Blake takes early retirement from the British Embassy in Cairo, he books a long–awaited birding trip. But halfway up the Nile he meets Lee Yong and things begin to change. Their tour guide Reda isn’t all he seems either and when the Egyptian revolution kicks off, Blake finds himself embroiled in a tangled web of love and intrigue.
Set against the background of the events of January 2011, Birds of the Nile is a powerful story of loss and self-discovery as three disparate characters, each with their own agenda, seek to come to terms with change.
Part political thriller, part love story, Birds of the Nile is N.E.David’s debut novel. Poignantly written, it reminds us of the complex nature of global cultural interaction and how, as individuals, we try to deal with it.


Birds of the Nile" is a story that unfolds similar to an Ishiguro novel. The reader is taken on a voyage on the Nile where Mr. Blake encounters a cast of characters on a sight-seeing/bird-watching tour. One of them, Reda, is a questionable member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Midway through the novel, the Egyptian Spring protests break out and Blake is thrown into various tenuous circumstances after Reda is arrested. Slow movement toward a building crescendo, "Birds of the Nile" is part love-story, part political dogma (though very light), and part panorama of Egypt. A must-read for anyone interested in the country. ~ Rick Vincent, Amazon

A most enjoyable read. Normally a non fiction reader,at the age of 60+, I found this a very absorbing introduction to the world of novels. I look forward to more of the same. ~ Ron Budzak, Amazon

NE David has created an interesting character in Michael Blake. One who, from the flashforward in the opening chapter, intrigues and makes you want to know more. That first chapter is a slow burn, and probably needs to be in order to explain Michael's character, but stick with it because the rest of the book is pacey and enjoyable. I always enjoy books that describe a situation, political or maybe historical, that I wish I knew more about and this has given me some insight into the Arab Spring and motivates me to find out more. The books relevance to current Middle Eastern affairs makes it a very timely read. ~ Anne, Amazon

Whether you enjoy reading about birds (the feathered kind), travel, politics or adventure, this is the book for you. It had me gripped from the start and didn't disappoint. ~ New Angel, Amazon

Whether you enjoy reading about birds (the feathered kind), travel, politics or adventure, this is the book for you. It had me gripped from the start and didn't disappoint. ~ Montholon, Amazon

This was one of those reads that really made me feel a deeper connection than I was expecting. It really is a novel with a lot of heart and will make you think. Michael Blake's journey is a powerful one. The characters, plot, and pacing were all spot on and really helped to elevate the novel. A superb literary novel. ~ Texas Book Nook , Website

This is a great example of a beautifully written literary novel. The level of writing is really higher than most other things I’ve read as of late and I think that is expected of literary fiction. I liked the political tones in the story. It really brings it to another level and Michael’s suspicions and the people he meets really heighten the story for the reader. I don’t want to give anything away, but this was a great novel on just about every level. ~ A Life Through Books, Website

I was given a copy of "Birds of the Nile" by author N.E.David in exchange for an honest review. I'm also participating in a virtual book tour hosted by It had been a while since I read the blurb about the book. So when I finally started the book over the weekend, boy was I surprised. "Birds of the Nile" draws you into the world of Michael Blake. He's just retired from a long career at the British Embassy in Cairo. Having fallen in love with the country, he has longed for the opportunity to actually see it through the eyes of a tourist instead of being employed there. Being an avid bird watcher his entire life, Blake wants to take a cruise along the Nile and seize the opportunity to view some of the countries most beautiful birds. Maybe he'll get an opportunity to spy a rare bird that he had yet to see. However, he learns that the Muslim Brotherhood is starting to create problems in Egypt and this might affect his holiday. While floating up the Nile, sets his sights on something much more beautiful and interesting than the birds. Lee Young is a breath of fresh air. She's possess a breath-taking beauty, knowledge of her surroundings and has an irresistible charm. However, it's when Blake discovers that she is involved with their tour guide Reda, things really start to go wrong. With Hosni Mubarak as dictator, the plot is set for a skirmish to have him removed from office. It's through his connections at the embassy and personal observations and the all mighty gut check, Blake starts to put the puzzle together and discovers a plot in the making. A victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, Blake gets drawn into a political war that he never intended to get involved in. He learns that his lifetime of being stand-offish and never taking charge is about to change. He is now thrust into a situation that is not only going to save his fellow companions on the cruise, but also his life as well as someone who has a hand in the Egyptian uprising. "Birds of the Nile" does contain a lot of information about the politics in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, this is only plays a minor role in the story. What this novel focuses on is how one learns to discover himself and grow from those people who surround him. With Blake losing his eyesight, he has to learn how to see the world through a whole new set of eyes, so to speak. Now this isn't a spoiler to the book! The book starts off telling you that he is blind. What this novel so wonderfully describes is how he lost his eyesight and gained a whole new way of viewing the world around him. I have always been in love with Egypt. I have never travelled there and more than likely never will. However, that doesn't stop me from dreaming of the ancient lands and learning of its beauty and history. This is just a beautiful and remarkable book. I would suggest anyone that is in love with Egypt to read this! ~ Bilbo's Bookends, Website

The pull of this story is in the opening chapter when we meet Michael Blake, newly retired from the Foreign Office, in Cairo. He is blind and a young woman is reading to him. The book then takes us back to his recent past and builds gradual suspense as to how he came to lose his sight. He seems like a man to steer well clear of adventure, more interested in watching birds than in engaging with people. He categorises those around him with his ornithologist's eye, they are all 'types', until he can't help but get to know two of them better - a young Egyptian tour guide and a beautiful Malaysian girl. Add in the gathering storm clouds of the Arab Spring and the visual backdrop of a Nile cruise, and NE David has given us all the ingredients of a cracking yarn. It's all the more poignant in light of what has happened since, and is still happening, in Egypt's political turmoil. ~ Helen Cadbury, Amazon

I was drawn to this book because of the fact that I had visited Egypt some years ago, and am intrigued by all things Egyptian as a result. Birds of the Nile did not disappoint! Told from the perspective of a British diplomat who has reached the age of mandatory retirement, and who has made his permanent home in Cairo, the novel contains just about everything needed to create a winning story: interesting characters, excellent writing, a suspenseful plot, a hint of romance, and the magnificent treasures of ancient Egypt. Michael Blake is our retired diplomat. Recently forced out of service, he embarks a cruise along the Nile as a way to enjoy his passion for bird watching. As a diplomat, he has always maintained his distance, choosing to be an observer rather than a participant in most situations. Despite his best efforts, he can not help but become involved when he meets Lee Yong, a Malaysian woman who is one of the members of his group. As the cruise unfolds, Michael learns that their tour guide may be involved in an opposition group, and that he and Lee Yong have discovered an attraction between them. Set against the backdrop of some of the world's most important historical treasures,Birds of the Nile accurately describes cruises along the river, but does not dwell on the temples and tombs beyond what is necessary to tell the story that author N.E David wants to tell. That story, about the days leading up to the revolution in Tahrir Square that led to the removal of Hosni Mubarak as dictator, provides the impetus for Michael Blake to question whether his lifelong habit of remaining on the sidelines was his best option. Ultimately, Blake learns much about himself, as the life-altering changes in his adopted country bring about similar life-altering changes in himself. I really wish I had the ability to give this book 4 1/2 stars, as I truly believe it is better than a four-star book. I hesitate to give it five stars only because the plot sometimes moves a bit slowly. I would highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Egyptology or an interest in the current political situation there. However, I do not wish to give the impression that this is a book about Egyptian politics. It is more about the effect such momentous changes can have on the individual. I consider it an excellent read, and a highly impressive debut novel. ~ Claire P, Goodreads

An evocative tale of a retired civil servant struggling to understand love, and the life that's passed him by, on a river cruise up the Nile. NE David's research in Egypt gives this an authentic feel, while the onset of the Egyptian revolution is nicely drawn. A gentle, honest and heartfelt debut. ~ Tom Harper, Goodreads

An intriging story peopled with believable characters. I have never visited Egypt, or been on a cruise ship, but now feel I have a vivid idea of what both might be like! ~ Madeleine Kay, Amazon

Unfortunately I couldn't read this book all in one go but I'm really glad I started it. What I liked about it was the way the author used a range of characters from different nationalities to make his point about global interaction. The main protagonists are British, Malaysian and Egyptian while the supporting cast includes a couple of Americans. I also liked the way the romantic element was hinted at without the need to go into too much detail. A great read. ~ A.Stead, Amazon

It is always a joy to find a good read among the dross that one finds out there these days. Michael Blake, newly retired from the British Foreign office in Egypt, doesn't return home. He loves his adopted country. We know at the beginning that he is going to lose his sight. How, we wonder. He goes on a boat tour along the Nile to bird watch. Along the way he meets people who he suspects may be involved in the political unrest threatening the country and gradually becomes involved. Any further explanation on the story would be a spoiler. This book is by someone who knows how to write and construct a tale. It is a book I will remember for some time. I found it through a tweet. ~ Ozziereader, Amazon

I read quite a lot and I've been wondering when we were going to get a novel about the revolution in Egypt. Now it's arrived and I'm not disappointed. Great characters, great plot and for a book with a romantic element to it, an ending you're not quite expecting. Subtle. ~ Ant, Amazon

I really enjoyed this character driven novel by Nick. I particularly loved the descriptions of Michael Blake's "birding" and felt I was there with him. Michael's relationships with Reda and Lee Yong are sensitively handled through the use of believable dialogue and description, the minor characters spring to life off the page without becoming caricatures -- indeed several have unexpected back stories which really set me thinking about how people develop. I won't add anything about the plot-- as I don't want to spoil it! Well Done Nick! ~ Clint Wastling, Goodreads

This is the first book I received from a first reads giveaway, and having read it I am glad that I entered. It is set in the time of recent unrest in Egypt and this real life setting is what attracted me to the book in the first place. It is not what I would call a page turner but there is enough tension to keep you interested to the end. Due to the romance element, I probably wouldn't have gone out and bought this book, but having read it, I would certainly consider another book from the same author. ~ Robert Gordon, Goodreads

I enjoyed this book because it took me to places I have never been and showed how ordinary tourists can sometimes become involved in extraordinary events. It looked at the Egyptian revolution from a different perspective than our TV sets and made heroes out of seemingly un-heroic individuals. The setting. both in place and time were convincing. The author depicts blindness in a sympathetic but unsentimental way. A book which leaves you thinking about the characters long after you have closed the last page. ~ bonanzafan, Amazon

Having read and enjoyed the author’s earlier short stories I was looking forward to reading his first full length novel. I was not disappointed. Although I have never been to Egypt I was transported there and easily able to imagine the sights, the people, even the climate. All the characters were well written, especially Michael Blake a reserved English man with a close affinity to this foreign country. A book I couldn’t put down and thoroughly recommend. I look forward to the next one. ~ PatR, Amazon

I read the book and enjoyed it. It took me to places I have never visited and viewed the revolution in Egypt from an entirely different angle to that seen on our TVs. Michael Blake was not a hero like James Bond et al but yet he did heroic things when he could simply have walked away. His blindness was treated sympathetically, not sentimentally. I believe that the other senses do become more pronounced when sight is no longer available, although I wouldn't want to test the theory personally. In short, a well written book with believable characters, set in a very interesting place and time. ~ Pamela Mann, Chair, Bassetlaw Writers Group

A friend recommended this book to read and I am glad they did, I really enjoyed it. I loved the storyline, was intrigued to discover the reason for Michael Blake's blindness and what the mysterious reader meant to him. I could feel the heat on the visits to the temples and then the fear when the passengers were trapped in the café. It evoked memories of my own trip up the Nile and also enlightened my rather hazy ideas of the Egyptian uprising. Have now lent it to another friend so that they can enjoy it too. ~ Sheila Mason, Amazon

I'd previously read two novellas by this author and enjoyed them immensely and my only complaint had been that they weren't novels, as I would have liked them to continue. However, Birds of the Nile is quite a departure from the author's comedies, but as the subject was Egypt, a country I have visited and had long wanted to visit, I was even more excited at the prospect of reading this, his first novel. I wasn't disappointed. It gave the author the opportunity to show what he is capable of and the language used was wonderfully evocative. I felt as if I were back in Egypt. I could imagine the locals in their basic Egyptian clothing; the people carrying tourists' cases who wanted to be tipped; the feeling of mistrust of foreigners which the Westerners displayed; the Egyptians agreeing with their counterparts not to bother certain tourists - they had already been taken care of; the attitude towards women. The romantic involvement is subtle and fittingly so. The novel contains a broad tapestry of characters. I liked the silent Ira, the larger than life Mrs Biltmore and the Britishness of David and Joan. The subplot of the birding holiday was well considered and was woven seamlessly throughout the novel. I also enjoyed the Foreign Office sections and the personage of Carpenter, who was the epitome of officialdom - a penpusher who offloaded his workload elsewhere. I was delighted to revisit through Birds of the Nile some of the historic monuments I visited myself whilst in Egypt and it refreshed my memory of the ways of the Egyptian people, whilst at the same time letting me view things from a different perspective - that of an Englishman who considers himself Egyptian. All in all this novel is a triumph which I have already recommended to friends. ~ SoozBuch, Amazon

Weaving cultural threads with the difficult political atmosphere is beautifully mastered in this inspiring story of human struggles. N.E.David's style captivated my interest with the same sense of the unseeing hero, who just knew there was something there to hold on to. ~ Lilas Taha, Amazon

A British diplomat, accustomed to sitting in tranquillity at a Foreign Office desk, finds himself in retirement drawn into political chaos - a coup to overthrow Egypt's president - and the personal journey he takes brings both love and tragedy. This is a well and confidently written debut novel by an accomplished story-teller. ~ PH Riley, Amazon

Birds of the Nile is a beautifully paced story, in an interesting setting, leading to an end you'll keep with you. At times I was a little unsure of the protagonist's motivation, which made the middle of the story slow a little too much for me. However, this is an interesting and worthwhile read and I would happily suggest it to anyone. ~ Ben, Amazon

An absorbing read - the novel's strength lies in characterisation. Although at times the pace is slow, it is the complexity of Michael Blake's character that is so appealing to the reader. From the beginning, we are fascinated and intrigued by this sightless man and want to know his story. Depicted intially as a straight forward representation of the quiet, retiring foreign diplomat intent only on searching out the 'fabulous birds of the nile', N.E. David nevertheless uses Blake's inner voice to hint that so much more lies deep below the surface. It is with some flair, therefore, that the author introduces us to the idea that 'they' - his colleagues in the Foreign Service - do not understand him or the country they work in; implying Blake knows both well. The journey we take is not so much down the Nile but Blake's journey of self-discovery where he experiences loss but awakenings too. The novel begins and ends in his room but the spirit of the place is Egypt - past and present - in all its unfathomableness. There is a wealth of difference between the two but as the revolution gets underway and we are drawn into the muddy grey area of politics, power and love, the slow emergence of heroism surprises no one more than Blake himself. I can well recommend this book. ~ Linda J Bradshaw, Amazon

Really enjoyed this book - a great read right from the first page. Been a fan of the author since reading his earlier short fictions and birds of the nile has cemented him firmly as one of my favourites. Couldn't put this book down until I'd read the last page as I was genuinely invested in the characters! Thoroughly recommend! ~ scorponock, Amazon

Another must-read from Nick David. Combining the protagonist's interest in ornithology against the backdrop of the turmoil currently affecting the Egyptian region is an unlikely pairing but one that turns out to be both engaging and interesting. A great debut novel from this York-based author. ~ benjsutt, Amazon

I'm not a literary critic, for me a book needs to entertain, draw me in and let me out again still wondering a little about characters and events within it. This certainly ticked the boxes! It was interesting and twisting, sending me on different tracks of thought throughout and finally leaving me thinking about Blake and Lee Yong and what might happen. Intriguing! An enjoyable read. Thank you! ~ Jude Sutton, email

As someone who had great holiday cruising the Nile a few years ago I found the story very evocative and brought back wonderful memories. ~ Lawrie Stratford, Councillor, Cherwell DC

It is a jolly good read and I got thoroughly immersed. Congratulations on a thoughtful and sensitive book. ~ Tony Ellis, Chairman, Kings Lynn Lit Fest

A riveting tale - and very topical with political upset and intrigue in Egypt. A good length read which captures the beauty of Egypt and the Nile set against very trying historical events. I was captivated by the names of the various birds and so intrigued I had to look them up to see what they really looked like! I hope the author has left the ending open enough to give us more of this delightfully written tale at a later date. ~ dozzieb, Amazon

Once started I was kept absorbed throughout this intriguing story by the interwoven situations that developed on a seemingly harmless birding trip along the Nile. From start to finish I was kept involved by the descriptive narrative, always wanting to find out "what happened next". A totally good read. Do hope there is more to follow from this author. ~ T.C.Hughes, Amazon

The chief protagonist of this riveting novel is also the narrator. The story unfolds against the remarkable events of the uprising in Egypt. Michael Blake gradually reveals the disappointments of his life, provoked by his observation of a budding love affair between two very different characters who are travelling with him down the Nile. The beautiful prose of this novel draws you into a rich and powerful story that held me in its grip to the very last page. ~ maybelline, Amazon

A good read, nicely paced and the perfect length for a holiday read. This is a well-crafted book that brings alive the experience of a leisurely boat trip on the Nile for the reader before plunging them into the events of the revolution against Mubarak in Egypt. David keeps the reader's interest throughout all of the twists and turns of the plot that lead to the unexpected ending. I look forward to reading David's next book. ~ SayMarsSayYeah, Amazon

This book is suffused with a very strong sense of place (Egypt), further enriched by the bird-watching activities of the main character. The close description of events in which he is caught up, mingled with his own self-confessed character weaknesses, drives the story in a very compelling manner. I finished the book as if just returned from an unforgettable journey. ~ perfumedpig, Amazon

After publishing three short novellas, I'm pleased to at last present my debut novel. This has been the culmination of four years work, all inspired by a trip on the Nile with my wife in January 2009. Egypt was a fabulous and fascinating country even before the revolution, but recent events have brought it to the fore again for different reasons. I hope I have been able to convey in my book some of the excitement I experienced whilst I was there as well as giving an accurate impression of what has transpired since. In MICHAEL BLAKE I believe I have created a character both haunted by Egypt's historic past and disturbed by its troubled present. The ultimate choice he is forced to make about whether to join the revolution or not has consequences which will stay with him for ever. The people of Egypt have had to make a similar choice but their story is not yet over. I wish them well. ~ N.E.David, A Message From The Author

Vivid settings, crisp writing and a highly relevant story make Birds of the Nile a gripping read. Egypt’s great inheritance and chaotic present are brought convincingly to life, and the politics behind the uprising deftly sketched. Against this background, a haunting love story develops to an unpredictable conclusion. I have always admired N.E.David’s short fiction. His long-awaited first novel does not disappoint. ~ Pauline Kirk, Novelist and Editor of Fighting Cock Press

Birds of the Nile is a smartly written book. The elegant pace and rhythm capture the reader and the crisp tone of N.E.David's prose is both accomplished and poised. At every level, our sympathies are engaged by quality of voice, place and character. Ultimately absorbing. ~ Sandra Cain, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Southampton Solent University

An evocative read, this takes you to Egypt and drops you into the middle of history. Along the way you meet Michael Blake who along the way meets himself. A book by N.E.David is a guaranteed trip out of your easy chair and with Birds of the Nile, you are given a trip to the Middle East. Highly recommended. I couldn't put it down. ~ Rose Drew, Performance poet and co-host of The Spoken Word

From the first page of Birds of the Nile the reader is hooked into the mystery and compassion of a narrative that spans Pharaonic antiquity and history in the making. N.E.David is a superb storyteller with a gift for evoking place. ~ Amina Alyal, Lecturer in English, Leeds Trinity University

This well-researched and insightful novel about an outsider who finds he has choices to make is a terrific read. ~ Pat Riley, Playwright and author of 'Looking for Githa'

N.E. David
N.E. David N.E.David is the pen name of York author Nick David. Nick tried writing at the age of 21 but like so many things in life, it did not work ou...
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