Friday, March 7, 2008

Dreamers of the Day

By Mary Doria Russell

Lawrence of Arabia, Winston Churchill, Gertrude Bell, World War I The Depression, and Agnes Shanklin and her constant companion, Rosie the dachshund . All of this and more are to be found inside the pages of Mary Doria Russell's latest offering.

Agnes is a forty year old, somewhat dowdy and reserved school teacher. She has become cowed by an overbearing mother. It seems at first that circumstances conspire to keep Agnes in her little niche in a little town in Ohio. Then the influenza epidemic carries off her family and Agnes inherits a tidy sum of money.

This inheritance causes her to take a look at her life, and make some changes, beginning with her wardrobe. She goes to the city, has what amounts to a makeover, and then finds herself making plans for a trip to Egypt. With her little dog Rosie as her constant companion, she begins the journey that is to define her for the rest of her life.

Astonishingly, she finds herself befriended by T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, Gertrude Bell, and other somewhat less significant figures, including a German spy. She takes the spy, Karl Weilbacher as a lover A very daring and exciting choice for a woman of that day .

But every trip has an ending and the ending most often brings the journeyer home, and so Agnes arrive back in Ohio, with money to spare an choices to make. She lived life to its fullest every day during the Roaring Twenties. Good investments allow her to live the high life until Thursday, October 24 1929. She lost all of her money in the stock market crash that was the beginning of The Great Depression.

Still, she survives, as does Rosie, who lived a happy and full life.

This all brings us to and ending that is somewhat surprising, but a perfect finale to a story that seems to be filled with improbabilities, if not impossibilities. I am a Russell fan, and have been since I read her first novel some years ago. In true Russell style I was intrigued, amazed, fascinated and skeptical during my journey through the pages of this historical novel.

My advice? Never turn away from a book by this author.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I had hoped to get this book on E.R. but got another one instead. I'm on a mile long waiting list for it at the library. Nice blog by the way. =)