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““Or simply look at a globe, and weep. Despite it all, there was still a chance for peace, even then, in some few places. If no single person could make things right after the Great Way, young Neddy Lawrence still hoped to make them less wrong in one corner of the world. The rest of my story is...”see full review » see other reviews »
““Or simply look at a globe, and weep. Despite it all, there was still a chance for peace, even then, in some few places. If no single person could make things right after the Great Way, young Neddy Lawrence still hoped to make them less wrong in one corner of the world. The rest of my story is a small part of his, and a large part of yours, I’m afraid.”
Speaking from the grave, Agnes Shanklin, relates the events of her life beginning with WWI though the Great Depression. Agnes, who has grown up in the shadow of her beautiful, younger sister and under the thumb of an oppressive mother. As a result, she has developed an inferior complex. When she comes into an inheritance, Agnes travels to Egypt and inadvertently becomes an eyewitness to the events that would lead to the creation of the modern-day Middle East.
I think Russell uses fiction as an excellent tool for relating history. This work is no exception. While I would caution the reader against comparing it to her other work like Doc, I think as a stand alone work it does a very good job of recounting the important, and complex issues of this time. I've seen a lot of criticism of Russell's work. It is an unusual perspective with the narrator talking to us from the grave. But, I rather enjoyed that aspect. I would also agree that the reader must be willing to take suspension of disbelief to its greatest extent to accept that Churchill, TE Lawrence, and Gertrude Bell would welcome a 5th grade teacher into their circle at this point in history. But, if the reader can get past that conundrum, there are some real gems within the work.
A couple of favorite passages:
“Foreigners nearly always wish to simplify the Middle East, Agnes. They cannot tolerate to feel ignorant long enough to understand it.” (pg 130)
“Humiliation is not the same as embarrassment, I realized. If you know yourself to be clumsy and never pretend otherwise, you might well be embarrassed when you trip over your own feet upon entering a room, but you won’t be ashamed. You can laugh at yourself and shrug the embarrassment off. Humiliation, by contrast, does not merely require open recognition of an acknowledged foible. Humiliation is public exposure of some secret vanity.” (pg 67)
As Mark Twain observed long ago, there’s hardly a square yard of land anywhere on earth that’s in the possession of its original owners” (pg 241)
All men dream…but not equally. Those who dream by night wake in the day to find that it was in vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.” (pg 243)
In my own personal opinion, the lives of Gertrude Bell and Lawrence are intriguing enough that non-fiction work far surpasses any fictional work. But, if you are person that gains more insight from a historical fiction work, this is certainly worth a read to understand the issues of this time.”
“It took a while for the story to get going but it was eventually engaging and worthwhile. I liked The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace by Ms. Russell and recommend both of them.”TechWriter wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I read this for a book group. It just didn't hold my interest, not the type of book that I would choose.”Linda S wrote this review Thursday, January 17, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I wanted to enjoy this so much more than I did. An Amrican women, losing her family to World War 1 and influenza has an adventure (with her deeply annoying dog) in the middle east at the same that Churchill and Lawrence are mobbing the results of the war. Interesting but I wanted the writing and the story telling to be better.”Ann T wrote this review Friday, September 14, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Dreamers of the Day
by Mary Doria Russell
After reading Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda, I became intrigued with T.E. Lawrence so I was quite pleased to pick up Mary Doria Russell’s Dreamers of the Day. Russell is one of my favorite authors and I have read all of her other books. She has a capacity for capturing an era and setting so that you feel part of it. I love her voice and her ability to develop characters.
Agnes Shanklin isn’t an entirely lovable character but one I found myself rooting for as she is forty years old and has lived under her mother’s thumb and her sister’s shadow. Agnes believes herself to be plain and has always although resentfully accepted her mother’s guidance. And then comes the flu of 1918 which wiped out whole families as it did Agnes’. So she found her alone with an inheritance. Like a butterfly coming out of it cocoon, Agnes discovers she isn’t entirely plain and decides to go on a voyage to the middle east and Egypt where he sister once resided as a missionary.
On Agnes’ first day in Egypt she meets T.E Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Winston Churchill. Having read both Hero by Michael Korda and Janet Wallach’s excellent biography of Gertrude Bell Desert Queen, I was pleased to read Russell’s fictional interpretations of the negotiations which decided the boundaries of the modern Middle East and of the characters who shaped it.
One of the things which I truly loved about this book was Rosie, Agnes’ dachshund which she took with her on her journey. I have the feeling by Russell’s loving description of Rosie that she must have at one time owned a dachshund and made me long for one.
Some readers may be a bit put off by the perspective , which is told from the point of view of a Agnes who is dead. It was a bit jarring when I first realized it but I appreciated this unique view.
The title to the story is from a quote of Lawrence of Arabia used in the book:
“All men dream,” Colonel Lawrence wrote, “but not equally. Those who dream by night wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”
While I didn’t love this book as much as some of Russell’s others. I appreciated the story and how it filled out a picture of the negotiations about the middle east which I had explored previously. I hope others will be as intrigued as I was by this book.”
“I recommend. Learned a little Middle East history while I enjoyed reading the book. Liked Russell's writing so I purchased A Thread of Grace in hope of another enjoyable book.”Old Old Tom wrote this review Friday, June 8, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Ms Russell gives us a look at the history that shaped our current days and a travel log through the Nile. A look at a changing world through the eyes of a woman who has yet to discover herself. Full of historical characters and events this book is a good read.”Cari R wrote this review Monday, April 23, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Historical fiction taking place mostly in Egypt in 1921 around a conference in which Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) attend to decide how the Middle East should be divided. Very interesting especially considering I don't know much about this period.”L. M. Jo wrote this review Tuesday, March 20, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Interesting read. It was a nice read about a woman's strengths and coming to recognize who she herself was. ”Diana C wrote this review Saturday, February 11, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Most excellent read, from the horroes of the influenza pandemic of 1918 to the back story of today's problems in the Middle East. What a hairpin turn, but everything this author does is deftly done. ”Dixie Swanson wrote this review Friday, February 10, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No