April 2009 Indie Next 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 a paleoanthropologist with specialties in bone biology and biomechanics who has done extensive field work in Australia and Croatia. After quitting academia and writing computer manuals, she began work on The Sparrow, her first novel. She lives with her husband and son in Cleveland, Ohio.