AMELIA PEABODY'S EGYPT: A
Edited by: Elizabeth Peters and Kristen Whitbread
HarperCollins Publishers, New York
While recovering from a recent surgery, my good friends at the
Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center gave me a most appropriate get-well
gift: a book whose subject matter was based on archaeology. I had seen Amelia
Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium for several months at the local Barnes
& Noble and was always tempted to pick up this lushly designed
"coffee table book," and I was absolutely delighted when it was
presented to me as a gift—although I wouldn’t recommend by-pass
surgery as a strategy to acquire desired books as gifts!
The book is simply beautiful in its lay-out, with literally hundreds of
engravings, drawings, and photos circa 1890. The text of the book is built
around the characters and adventures of Amelia Peabody and her husband
Radcliffe Emerson, their son Walter (Ramses) and the dozens of characters
that populate the pages of these wonderful adventure mysteries that take
place for the most part in Egypt between the late 19th and early 20th
Centuries. The fictional characters and occurrences are woven among
historic figures and historic situations throughout this series, and the
Compendium follows that pattern.
While I had anticipated a good and entertaining read (there is No
such thing as an unentertaining Peabody novel!), I was pleased and
surprised to learn a lot of new information about Egyptology, Egypt, and
the cultural and historical milieu in which the Peabody-Emersons lived.
There are wonderfully erudite chapters on such diverse topics as the
history of Egyptology from Napoleon to World War I, the history of the
British in Egypt, an analysis of Islam during the "Emerson Era,"
a pictorial essay on Islamic art and architecture, Victorian attitudes
towards other cultures and peoples, Victorian attitudes toward the servant
classes, Victorian fashion, popular music, childrearing—and the list
goes on and on. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the last chapter,
entitled, "Ancient Egypt 101: A Refresher Course," by
BettyWinkeolman, which is a concise ten-page treatment of Egyptian history
from Predynastic times (c. 4500 BC) to the time of the Greek and Roman
cultural hegemony that effectively overwhelmed the ancient Egypt to the
This is a wonderful book to own. It will look great on your coffee
table, it will impress your friends, and you can learn a lot about a lot!
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