Layla’s psychological, social, and political growth takes place in the context of the years from 1946 to 1956 — years that witnessed the revolt against the British and the Palace, the Free Officer’s Revolution of 1952, Jamal Abdul Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal, and the Israeli-British-French attack that followed.
The same novel is now “an impossibility,” al-Zayyat said a few years ago [in the mid 1990s]. When she wrote it she shared with her audience a common language and a common vision. But things have changed. According to her, “roads to salvation are blocked; the common ground of shared values seem to break down into multiple different sets of values according to the varied social strata; the common sensibility and its language is no more; people lacking national unity are divided and subdivided until each is turned into an insular island.” One Egyptian critic recently wrote that his female students don’t see themselves in the heroine of The Open Door. They no longer believe that what Layla achieves by the end of the book is possible for them.
Yet We Are All Laila demonstrates that, ten years later, Laila is once again a role model who offers shared values to a group of Egyptian women connected by the internet, which offers the opportunity for the reclamation and mobilisation of a "common language and a common vision."
On October 19 2008, the bloggers at We Are All Laila will be:
asking specific questions, carefully selected by a few friends, which concern the status of Egyptian girls and women, in particular, and Egyptians, in general. The objective is to develop a dialogue stemming from the responses to better understand ourselves and those around us.
Laila was the writer's dream: a character larger than her novel, who embodies the hopes and thoughts of a generation -- and now she is taking life and shape again from a new generation.