Spring/Summer '09 Reading Group List
“Rarely can one say that a book is both rapturous and relevant, but Russell has done it. We meet the actual architects of the Middle East settlement at the Cairo Conference of 1921 -- T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, Winston Churchill -- through the eyes of the surprising protagonist, a 40-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio. It is a wonderful story that brings to life a period of history that has remarkable parallels to our own time.”
— Barbara Tolliver, The Traveler, Bainbridge Island, WA
With prose as graceful and effortless as a seductive float down the Nile, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidates today’s headlines.
Agnes Shanklin, a forty-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio, has come into a modest inheritance that allows her to take the trip of a lifetime to Egypt and the Holy Land. Arriving at the Semiramis Hotel just as the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference convenes, she is freed for the first time from her mother’s withering influence and finds herself being wooed by a handsome, mysterious German. At the same time, Agnes–with her plainspoken American opinions–is drawn into the company of Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence, and Lady Gertrude Bell, who will, in the space of a few days, redraw the world map to create the modern Middle East. As they change history, Agnes too will find her own life transformed forever.
About the Author
Mary Doria Russell is the author of The Sparrow, Children of God, and A Thread of Grace. Her novels have won nine national and international literary awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the James Tiptree Award, and the American Library Association Readers Choice Award. The Sparrow was selected as one of Entertainment Weekly’s ten best books of the year, and A Thread of Grace was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Russell lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Contact her at www.MaryDoriaRussell.info.