Skip to main content

Review: Letters From Egypt, by Lucie Duff Gordon


Pages: 383
Original date of publication: 1865
My copy: 1986 (Virago)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Ebay, February 2011

A friend to George Meredith, Thackeray, and other notables of that time, Lucie Duff Gordon (1821-1969) was raised in a radical, intellectual family and imbued with a sense of adventure; her imagination roamed father than the usual Grand Tour. In 1862, she took a tour to South Africa, attempting to recover from tuberculosis; when that didn’t succeed, she went to Egypt, where her son-in-law was a banker. Although her daughter and son-in-law lived in Alexandria, Gordon spent much of her time in Luxor, living in a ruined house above a temple. Her letters were alternately written to her husband, Sir Alexander Duff Gordon; her mother; and her daughter.

Gordon’s letters reveal someone with a high amount of inquisitiveness and cultural sensitivity; Gordon frees herself from the usual ways that other Europeans stereotyped Egyptians at the time. She was there just as the Europeans were modernizing Egypt, represented by the construction of the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, the year Gordon passed away. Her letters reflect the changes to rural Egypt that were occurring, as well as observing social systems that were in place (especially criticizing the corvee, which was a system of forced labor that was used to build the Canal), and she was dismayed by the poverty that she witnessed while in Luxor.

Gordon’s tone is lively; perceptive; she had a keen interest in the Egyptian people and their history, and she interacted with the often, especially as an amateur doctor (Hakeemah). “I am in love with the Arabs’ ways, and I have contrived to see and know more of family life than many Europeans who have lived here for years,” she wrote. So we meet a wide variety of people, including Omar, her faithful servant. In all, a lively, entertaining collection of letters.

Comments

A do like these memoir pieces from those amazing Alpha-females who went off to quite extraordinary places. I don't read a lot of letters, but this does sound like a fascinating collection.

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

January:
1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

February:
1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

March:
1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…