Review

Dreamers of the Day

by Mary Doria Russell

Mary
Doria Russell brings us a historical novel that takes place during
the momentous Cairo Peace Conference of 1920, a three-day event
that will change the world as we know it today. Three individuals
--- the young Winston Churchill, then a mid-level cabinet officer;
world traveler Lady Gertrude Bell; and Colonel T. E. Lawrence ---
will carve Mesopotamia into Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel
following the defeat of Germany during the Great War, ironically
called the “war to end all wars.”

The world was still staggering from the ravages of World War I and
the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 that had cost millions of
human lives. Agnes Shanklin, a single Ohio schoolteacher, had
nursed her extended family through two waves of the deadly Spanish
flu, only to lose them one by one. Still recovering from the
effects of her own illness, Agnes settles her family affairs and
with a modest inheritance decides to follow through on a suggestion
by her late sister to visit Egypt and the Holy Land. Her sister, a
missionary in Palestine, had written glowingly of good friend Neddy
Lawrence and had urged Agnes to look him up if she ever got to the
Middle East. Agnes signs on to a Cook’s Tour and embarks on
the long voyage with her faithful companion, a long-haired
dachshund named Rosie, to trace the steps her late sister and
family had followed.

Upon her arrival in Cairo, Agnes is swept up in street rioting by
waves of protestors against Churchill. She was booked into the same
hotel as the convening dignitaries but is unceremoniously and
noisily ejected because of Rosie. Colonel Lawrence, who recognizes
her from her sister’s description, comes to her rescue and
escorts her to a suitable hotel across the Nile River. There she
meets Karl Weilbacher, a charming German spy, also in Cairo for the
conference. Observing that Lawrence has taken Agnes under his wing,
Weilbacher attaches himself to her through the affections of her
dog.

Mary Doria Russell began her career as a paleontologist with a firm
grasp of human relationships and theology, themes that run through
her works of fiction. Her fans will remember the hauntingly
beautiful story of THE SPARROW, her award-winning bestselling
futuristic first novel. She wrote a sequel, CHILDREN OF GOD, and a
third novel, A THREAD OF GRACE. 

Here, Russell weaves a story of world-altering politics and history
as seen through the eyes of the naïve, sheltered 40-year-old
spinster. DREAMERS OF THE DAY is at once a fascinating and romantic
travelogue and a spiritually challenging journey of self-discovery,
especially in Jerusalem where Agnes experiences the clash of
cultures in the ancient city.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 21, 2011

Dreamers of the Day
by Mary Doria Russell

  • Publication Date: March 11, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 1400064716
  • ISBN-13: 9781400064717