“How the middle eastern countries were formed by the English and French before WWII from the inside out. Also includes a late bloomer and her dachshund (loved it!) Plus fashion and behavior of the times, 1920s. Great finish, a surprise. ”Florey M wrote this review Friday, January 6, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A fun historical fiction excursion into the life of a Cleveland spinster, Agnes Shanklin, who gets to hobnob with T.E. Lawrence and Churchill at a post World War 1 summit in Cairo. The premise is that the 40-year old schoolteacher, after loss of much of her family to the influenza epidemic, chooses to use her inheritance to visit the Mideast, where her beloved sister had gone for missionary work. Her entre into the circle of negotiators carving up the region into precarious protectorates is due to her sister having been a teacher of Lawrence in his youth. Russell does a marvelous job bringing the two historical figures and other members of their retinue alive and in letting Agnes play out a belated coming of age scenario symbolic of the loss of innocence of America itself. A large role for her dachshund Rosie in the narrative ranks well among fictional accounts of dogs in literature.”Michael E wrote this review Thursday, December 22, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Mary Doria Russell writes informative and entertaining historical novels. In this 2008 book, Agnes Shanklin, an aging teacher from Ohio, takes the trip of a lifetime to Egypt in 1921. Her adventure goes beyond the usual when she finds herself in the midst of the Cairo Peace Conference. She meets Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence, and Gertrude Bell as they discuss the post-colonial divisions that created the Middle Eastern countries that we know today. She also becomes romantically involved with a courtly German gentleman, only to find out he’s not as innocent as he seems. Intrigue, historical detail, a good writing style, and a strong female character make this an engaging weekend read.
- Allison Midgley”
“I'm enjoying this book. The beginning rushes through the aftermath of WWI as far as the influenza epidemic. I'd like more information; it sounds horrendous, and I'm surprised there's not more written about it.
The heroine is an appealing character. Downtrodden most of her life, she finally has the money and freedom to learn more about living. There are flaws, but overall I enjoyed this book very much.”
“Jenn recommends this. The creation of the modern Middle East at the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference told by an Ohio schoolteacher.”Brooke wrote this review Tuesday, October 4, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but thought the epilogue was bizarre and out-of-sync with the rest of the story. Set in 1921 at the time of the Cairo Peace Conference, stark statistics about WWI and the flu epidemic are a reminder of how tenuous life can be: 50 million people died in a single year from the flu, millions more than died in combat on all sides, on all fronts, in 4.5 years of the Great War, itself an orgy of killing. "...read aloud. Hear the weight of these numbers in your own voice, sir. Ten million soldiers dead. Twenty-one million wounded. Seven and a half million med missing in action: blown to shreds, grim fertilizer for the poppies that would grow in Flanders Field and a hundred other battlegrounds." Mr Churchill: "She (my mother) was borm in Brooklyn. Her father was a titan of Wall Street! Made fortunes and lost them just as quickly. Family moved to Paris when Jennie was four. She grew up in France." "What will it mean to you if I say that the Great Pyramid is an almost solid mass of stone that covers thirteen acres? That each block at the base was a third the size of a railroad boxcar? Not much, I imagine." Seeds of unrest to last for decades: "Now the League of Nations had given Palestine to Great Britain as a protectorate to be dealt with as His Majesty's Government thought expedient. "Russian Zionists call it 'a land without a people for a people without a land.'" Karl said, "but nearly a million people live there, Agnes. A tenth are Jews, and half again as many Christians, but three-quarters are Arab, and they will never give that wasteland up. It may be awful but it is theirs, and they value it above their children. They proved to Turkey that they would kill or die for it, and now that Lawrence has encouraged Arab nationalism?" Karl shrugged. "They will feel the presence of British colonialists and Zionist settlers as needles in their living flesh. The irony is that Palestine is such a desolation, and yet so many have desired to possess it." As Lillie wrote in 1906, "Millennia of history have left one thing at least unchanged, and that is a misery of lepers." ...Before medical science discovered a treatment, lepers quite literally fell to pieces. Limb after limb broke down, becoming shapeless first, then lost altogether. Faces could become so knotted with lumpish lesions as to resemble a bunch of grapes; in some poor wretches, the features were scarcely discernible." But. "The French are right about one thing, Agnes. Oil is the blood of victory. There are pools of oil near Mosul -- on the surface of the land, like rain puddles. They burst into flame, all on their own. The British know this, of course, and will find a way to keep the Kurdish territory for themselves. From now on, oil will be at the heart of everything that happens in the Middle East." "The Middle East is a paranoid's paradise," he said quietly. "If the Zionists settle here with Christian backing, Arabs will believe it is all a plot against Islam. Jews will be blamed for every act of violence that follows. Black seeds have been sown these past few weeks, Agnes. I fear we shall harvest a tainted crop for generations." "When you get home, buy stock in munitions,". "I promise, you shall become very rich!" "All men dream," Colonel Lawrence wrote, "but not equally. Those who dream by night wake in the day to find that it was a vanity; but the dreamers of the dat are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."”Suzy P wrote this review Tuesday, September 27, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“4.5 stars. A most enjoyable read. ”StoryHeart wrote this review Thursday, June 23, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Like many of the books I enjoy, this one is set in an exotic place and at an interesting time. It is fictional, but set in Egypt during the time of Lawrence of Arabia, who is a character in the book, during the time after WWI, and events that will lead up to World War II. Agnes, small town spinster, sets off to have an adventure after she is set free from family obligations through a series of tragedies. She has an affair, she meets Lawrence who had known her sister, she learns about herself and the world. We learn more about why the Middle East is such a muddle as a result of the events of the Cairo Peace Conference at the end of the First World War.The ending was contrived, hence only 4 stars.”MaryKay wrote this review Friday, June 10, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Good book”Leslie L wrote this review Wednesday, May 11, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No