I had a truly spectacular day today… in Egypt. Yes, I traveled back in time to Ancient Egypt to the time of Hatshepsut’s demise and Thutmose III’s rise. Many of you have read and cherished this story, reading it countless times…what novel am I speaking of? Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. I had quite forgotten what an exhilarating tour de force this novel was until I picked it up from my shelf and spent the whole morning in rapt absorption.
Mara is a likable heroine – intelligent, courageous and clever – a survivor. A slave to a cruel master, Mara’s life changes abruptly one day, when an equally stony faced stranger buys her. Freedom, a life of riches and comfort is offered to her, in exchange that she risk her life on a dangerous mission. Self-confident and bold, Mara accepts the tantalizing offer, for she always believed she was not meant to slink submissively about the streets as a slave. Her new master is not the only one who has noticed Mara’s uncanny ability to deceive and elude. Soon after being given her first task, Mara finds herself face to face with another mysterious stranger, one who’s half-amused smile both attracts and threatens her. He seems to toy with her, suggesting that he knows more about her than she reveals, infuriating her with mysterious answers and knowing smiles. Soon, Mara discovers that he’s more then he appears himself. It is then that Mara’s real adventure begins: a captivating tale of a blue-eyed slave girl’s determination to survive while at the same time, searching for something more in life than simply survival.
I sighed after reading the novel and clutched the book to my heart. It is so great! All the elements of a great story are woven together: mystery, high adventure, love, clever wits. The images of the Falcon Inn, a center of the novel’s action, are still lingering vividly behind my closed eyes, the smell of the myrrh swirls around my imagination, the glimmering emeraldine of what I imagine the Nile to be on a typical Egyptian day carries the sound of wharf activity to my ears. Like many others, Egypt has always enthralled me, with its exotic culture and beliefs, its fantastical monuments and landscapes and great historical figures. I think it was Mara, daughter of the Nile that may have began my obsession. Such wonderful storytelling, that pulls the heartstrings this way and that and tugs at your imagination to lands halfway across the world.
It truly was like I was transported. I was like Nuit, though more emotionally attached to the characters. I followed their every move, biting my lips in fear at the dangers, rooting for the triumph of my favorite characters and wishing ill on others. I’ve read this novel countless times, and yet I’m always left in disbelief at how satisfying the story really is! Right now, as I type, I’m truly trying to find a flaw in the story, but I can’t. The story seems too real, and it would blasphemy to say that it is merely tight lines of print squished onto a tiny page. If it’s not on my top ten list, it really should be! But then again, it’s almost pointless in making top ten lists unless you update them every month…week….day, as the mood and tastes change. So, if you haven’t already, grab a copy of Mara, daughter of the Nile (I’m really reminded of the traditional ending to the children’s TV show ‘Reading Rainbow’ by saying this…). Goodness knows, it’s hard enough trying to obtain a copy from the local library. Their copy has mysteriously disappeared… I suspect someone loved the story so much they, well, had to keep it.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt:
Nuit the Starry One, goddess of the sky, arched her spangled body over the land of Egypt and gazed down serenely on its sleeping thousands. In palace and villa and hovel they slept, long of eye, with their amulets about their necks, each stiffly pillowed on his headrest of wood or carven ivory or gold. The sailor slept on his vessel on the Nile, the priest in his temple cell, the beggar in his lane. The scent of lotuses and the river and the black earth rose like the very breath of night to delight Nuit’s nostrils, and the cat slept, and the waterfowl slept, and the dead slept in their spices and wrappings, deep in the tomb.
But not everyone slept. In Bubastis, in the North, a thief prowled the night; in Abydos three surgeons worked over an old man who moaned in pain; and in Thebes two men argued in tense and urgent whispers in an alley.
The eyes of Nuit rested on these two with mild curiosity…
Rating: 5/5 Intrigues to watch out for in the royal court!