Book Review: Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Wow. Two posts in two days! I’m on a roll!

I apologise for the scrambly review yesterday – I was a bit too excited to care whether I used too many exclamation points or not. Now, I am sane (though no less adoring of that film) and ready to review the novel I have just finished reading – Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

Precautionary statement: This review will likely contain spoilers. For a total surprise, skip this post altogether.

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Specifications:

Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Published: 1953
Pages: 279
MSRP: $6.99

Not a bad price for an extremely compelling historical novel.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile is set in Ancient Egypt, during the rule of Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BC). In it, Mara, a slave girl yearning for her freedom, is employed by one of Hatshepsut’s agents to get information on the queen’s half-brother, Thutmose, who may or may not be trying to take the throne. But as she is carrying out her missions for Lord Nahareh, another lord approaches her. His name is Lord Sheftu, and he is an agent for Thutmose. He wants to restore whom he believes is the proper ruler onto the throne of the Black Land, who is none other than Thutmose. All Mara wants is her freedom and possibly some gold, so she accepts the offer, realising a bit too late that she is now a double-spy caught in what could become a fierce revolution. She also realises that she loves Lord Sheftu, despite his cold attitude toward her. When her duplicity is discovered, Mara must make the choice – help the cause she originally was supporting, or help Sheftu and all the rebel friends she has met.

(my description)

The thing that made this read special was the extremely descriptive writing. I felt ported immediately into a time I hadn’t known more than sterotypes about just from the way the words flew off the pages at me. An example of the author’s writing:

The innkeeper closed the door behind them, his broad face wreathed in smiles. He was a hulk of a man, vast of girth and guileless of countenance, dressed in a rumpled shenti and huge copper ear hoops. He pattered ahead of them, the earrings bouncing and his paunch preceding him, through a tiny entryway and into a large square room which was smoky with torchlight and smelled of beer and roasting meat.

Not only do I see a pudgy, sweatily good-natured man, I also see a dark, stale, loud room with plenty of ill-to-do characters guffawing within. I felt like I was in the story, not just reading about it, and the author definitely knows the techniques of foreshadowing and contrasting.

Pushing past the blaringly obvious hist-fict genre, I’d say this story is 50% romance and 50% adventure. There’s enough action scattered between the romantic scenes to make the story thrilling and gritty, yet enough romance and intrigue balancing out the excitement to give it direction.

The characters are likeable when they ought to be and abhorrable when they need to be. In the same way that I loved Nekokh, the cynical riverman who ended up being my favourite character, I hated Sahure, the wily juggler who was meant to be disliked. I loved Innani, the Syrian princess that fit in with the Egyptians as much as a bird fits in with fish.

Content: There is a lot of historical drinking (after all, it’s not like noblemen drink water), numerous mentions of false gods (this is Egypt) and likewise using their names as exclamations or expletives. I don’t think it’s appropriate for children, persay, but tweens and older should be able to 1) fully understand the plot and dialouge, and 2) understand that anything that seems funny nowadays is cultural. Plus, the reading level is pretty high.

From a religious standpoint, this book is a useful tool for understanding Egypt from a Biblical perspective. The most blaring example of this is in what Egyptians thought about darkness. They mention several times in this book that “the darkness is laden with evil spirits” (not an exact quote). Think about the plague of Darkness for a minute…

I think my favourite chapter was chapter 18, which is undoubtedly the most exciting chapter. You know I’m a thrill-seeker…;P

Overall, I give this book a 9.5/10. The best word to describe it is intriguing, I think.

The verdict:

YEA!

{Tess}

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