Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dreamers of the Day

There are some who might say that's an appropriate label for me! I still have hope with a capital "H." However, in this case I'm referring to the new book by Mary Doria Russell, another one that I can't say enough about. In many ways it reminds me of The Open Door that I wrote about 2 weeks ago; another novel about a spunky, independent woman who scoffs at the morees of the day (early 2oth century) and decides to experience all that life has to offer before it passes her by. Go ahead, suspend disbelief. Go along for the ride as plain Jane schoolmarm, Agnes, whose entire family dies during the influenza outbreak, reinvents herself with the help of a friend and a comfy inheritance, setting sail for Egypt and beyond.

A minor cultural faux pas occurs when Agnes tries to check into Cairo's finest hotel with her little schnauzer, drawing the attention of some well-known historical figures who happen to be staying at the same place. Soon our small-town heroine is drawn into the social milieu of Gertrude Bell, Mr. and Mrs. Winston Churchill and the renowned Lawrence of Arabia. Through this coincidental meeting, Russell gives readers a fascinating look at the backstory of the British involvement in the complicated separation of powers among the Middle Eastern states and the West. There were times in this historical novel when I thought I was reading contemporary jounalism!

It's such a pleasure to meet a character like Agnes, who blossoms with confidence and charm as she opens herself to the opportunities for love and adventure as they present themselves to her. While this novel is lighter than what I'm used to from Russell, having held a great book discussion on A Thread of Grace, it was still a pure delight from start to finish and goodness knows my reading habits can always use a little light!

You'll know what I mean if you've ever read one of the creepiest literary thriller writers around, our Reading Festival veteran, Jeffery Deaver. I started the latest in his incredible Lincoln Rhyme series last Thursday night on my way home from work. Within the short span of 8 miles I became so scared I didn't want to enter my garage alone! The Broken Window, a terrifying look at idenity theft, has sucked me in to the point where I'm planning a weekend trip just so I can listen.

Banned Books Week is coming up. Go ahead, make Sarah Palin's day! Read Daddy's Roommate.

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