“This just misses five stars--because it took me a long time to warm up to the Sinuhe, the protagonist and narrator, and it's just a little bit too much of a downer. So no, I wouldn't call this a happy tale--but it is a rich epic and great historical fiction of Ancient Egypt under Akhenaton, its heretic pharaoh. Had I not known going in, I wouldn't have guessed this novel was written in 1945. Although that might explain some of its bleakness--I've read that when it was published, it resonated with people who had seen humanistic ideals collapse in the face of Stalin, Hitler, the Holocaust.
This is set in Ancient Egypt over 1,300 years before the birth of Christ. Akhenation is thought to be the first monotheist, so he holds some fascination for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Before this I had read Naguib Mahfouz's Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth. Mahfouz is a Muslim and I thought I could detect that coloring his novel. Waltari, for his part, was supposedly a believing Christian. His novel doesn't come across as Christian fiction though--at all. As I said, it doesn't come across as written in 1945. I didn't feel as if there was a overlay of a worldview alien to the time in which this was set--and for me that's the mark of great historical fiction, that you feel transported to another place and time, rather than reading modern people in historical costumes. In fact, I think Waltari did almost too well--as I said it took a long time for me to warm to Sinuhe. Especially in his youth he was arrogant, misogynist, and too-stupid-to-live. But there are positive, strong female characters in this novel--they're just not very apparent early on.
And Waltari set this not just in Egypt--this is like a grand tour of the Bronze Age world--Egypt, Canaan, Syria, Babylon, Hatti, Crete. There are allusions to both Biblical stories and Greek myth. Sinuhe was found as a baby floating in the river on a reed boat and Minea, one of the positive female characters, is a bull-leaper from Minoan Crete--and there is a minotaur and a labyrinth. According to what I gather from online, Waltari did extensive research for this book and garnered praise even from Egyptologists. So truly, this novel is a great ride I'd recommend to anyone looking for great historical fiction--even if I found it a rather melancholy read.
(Note--since posting my review someone brought to my attention that the English edition is very much truncated--by about 300 pages)”
“Astonishing good written. Very good documented. A unique style. One of the best books I read.”Stefan Badescu wrote this review Monday, July 29, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Imagine an historical fiction that goes WAY back to the days of ancient Egypt! What a fantastic story! I've always been curious about the land of Pharaohs, King Tut, pyramids, and the like.
In this book, the main character journals his life from a young man through to old age. He's an abandoned child taken in my kindly parents, who eventually becomes a famous physician. He travels around the known world, meeting kings, crossing battle scenes, saving lives, and falling in love.
One of the neatest aspects of the book is that it reads almost like the Bible-- you feel like you're reading something actually written four thousand years ago!
I highly recommend it. You'll love it.”
“The novel was set during the last years of the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom 1386-1293 B.C.E. during a time of great religious and political upheaval. Sinuhe told his life story as he searched for an ideal greater than himself.
The strength of this historical fiction piece was the research incorporated in it to give the reader insight into the life of everyday people, the aristocracy, and the politics and religion of the times. It was an engrossing read transporting this reader to a fascinating time.”
“An epic novel, introduced to me by my friend Anniina Davie, who is Finnish. This guy is reckoned the greatest Finnish writer of the C20th, and I am not surprised based on the evidence of this: the translation is superb, the prose reads like epic/homeric poetry - spare and compelling - and combine this with brilliant characters, awesome plot, and the most exciting re-creation of Egypt under the heretic Pharaoh, Akenaton, and you have a book you can't stop reading. If you are fed up reading the trendy rubbish that passes for literature and makes it onto many of the examination syllabuses in the UK, then go for this book. I shall now be buying another title by him. This is a real read.”James Sale wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I'm not going to give a synopsis of the book because this book has been around for ages. I'm glad I finally broke down and read it. First, it is considered a classic. Secondly, it is the first Scandinavian literature I've read.
There are some very good things about the book. There is a tremendous amount of detail about medical practices, which the ancient Egyptians are recognized for, in the work. It is also the first book focused on ancient Egypt that mentions so many of the other existing cultures and surrounding, competing kingdoms.
I have to admit I didn't love the book. I felt like I was reading an abridged version or my translation was not up to par. I have read so many praises of the book pointing to bringing life to characters like Tut and Nefertiti. My version only mentions them. It doesn't build those characters. With the version I read, if you didn't have a foundation of Egyptian history the reader could get lost in the customs, rituals, and pantheon of Egyptian mythology. It also seemed to move very slowly. But, most importantly, I was really frustrated with the main character Sinhue.
Would I recommend reading it? It depends. If you have a handle of Egyptian history and feel the need to add the book to your list of reads go ahead. However, I would recommend doing a bit of research to identify the best version to read though. ”
“Excellent adventure in the time of Akhetaton and Tut. i thoroughly enjoyed it.”wiley wrote this review Saturday, August 18, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This was the book that got me interested in Egypt and it has profoundly influenced my own writing. All of Waltari's books are amazing, but this one is the best. Read it, and be forever lost in the beauty of its narrator's voice, Sinuhe the Egyptian.”Brad Geagley wrote this review Thursday, March 22, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Beautifully written prose that brilliantly and vividly brings the turbulent period of Akhenatons reign to life, as well as the people and cultures. Sinuhe is swept up in the wave of Egyptian influence and revolution, loving fiercely and experiencing deep tragedy, trying to find his destiny and identity and understand the mysteries of the human heart. A poignant and meaningful novel set in ancient Egypt. ”Rochelle H wrote this review Tuesday, January 3, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“When this novel was first published in 1949 it was condemned as obscene, yet it outsold every other novel published that year and is widely considered a classic. I am fascinated by all things Egyptian and this book transports the reader to Egypt of the 14th century B.C.E. It is narrated by Sinuhe, a man of humble background who becomes the personal physician to Pharoah Akhnaton.
Hands down, this is my favorite book to date. The reflective first person account is so beautifully written that the reader is easily transported to the time and place. The themes woven throughout of power, vengeance, race, war, death, love and redemption are universal.
- Melody Fanton”