Source: Barnes & Noble gift card
Rating: 9 out of 10
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Synopsis (from Booklist): On the heels of a family tragedy precipitated by the influenza epidemic of 1919, middle-aged spinster schoolteacher Agnes Shanklin inherits enough money to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Traveling to Egypt, she settles in at the Semiramis Hotel, where she meets and becomes involved with a number of members of the Cairo Peace Conference, including T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Winston Churchill, and Lady Gertrude Bell. As these luminaries begin to carve up the Middle East, the unassuming Agnes wins the confidence of the conference attendees and attracts the attention of a dashing German spy.
Overall Impression: Despite taking place nearly a hundred years ago, Dreamers of the Day was an incredibly timely novel. It traces the history how the Middle East was pretty much doled out among the Western world — Britain, France, Portugal, etc., each taking a piece. The fact that the effects of the Cairo Conference are still taking place today shows that the decisions we make can have long-reaching and sometimes devastating consequences. The fighting across that region of the world today has significant ties to what happened in 1919.
In addition to being a fascinating historical study, it was also a great book. I loved the characterization of Agnes and her internal struggles with being a modern woman who is still dragging around the ghosts from her past. She was very likable and easy to root for. The other characters were also fascinating — Lawrence of Arabia, Karl, Gertrude Bell, Winston Churchill, Churchill’s body guard. Their stories were deftly woven together to create a tapestry of the time.
And if anyone else love’s Russell’s beautiful, evocative writing in her other books, you won’t be disappointed here.
“…the soil is so fertile that you could plant a pencil and harvest a book.”
“The dachshund is a perfectly engineered dog. It is precisely long enough for a single standard stroke of the back, but you aren’t paying for any superfluous leg.”
Positives: Plot, characterization, and writing style are blended into a beautiful novel.
Negatives: It gets a little preachy at times.
Other blogger opinions:
Boston Bibliophile: “Russell’s writing is engaging and well-paced, and Agnes was an appealing, likable character despite being a little bit of a doormat when it came to her family.”
S. Krishna’s Books: “I thought this book was well-crafted and very interesting. Russell obviously took her time researching this novel thoroughly.”
Prairie Progressive: “…the book periodically feels like a treatment for a made-for-television movie.”