Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Sacred River - Wendy Wallace - Guest Book Review

Published by Simon & Schuster

Guest book review by Josie Barton

Harriet Heron is the cosseted daughter of an upper class Victorian family. Her severe asthma, in smog ridden London, necessitates her staying indoors, where her fascination for Egypt and the Egyptian Book of the Dead carries her through the worst of her illness. Tentatively, on the advice of her doctor, Harriet embarks on a journey to Egypt with her mother, Louisa and her eccentric Aunt Yael. On the boat to Alexandria they are befriended by an enigmatic artist, Eyre Soane, whose interest in Harriet and her family can only be regarded as suspicious and whose association with them continues throughout the novel.

Their arrival in Alexandria is filled with the sights, sounds and scents of a city so foreign that Harriet’s senses seem to come alive and she is enchanted by what she sees around her. Her health improves, and she is able to immerse herself in the history and culture of a country which has long fascinated her. However, for Louisa and Yael, Egypt is not just a land of contrasts, but is also a place where they must try to find some sort of inner peace. 

From the start of the novel, the author cleverly intertwines the story of three very different women and shows just what it was like to live within the closeted world of Victorian sensibility. They each have their own secrets, aspirations and hidden yearnings, and as the languid torpor of Egypt starts to influence them, their hopes, dreams and fears of the past are laid open to scrutiny in a fascinating journey of self discovery. Egypt is so beautifully described that it becomes vibrantly alive, from the contrast of valleys tinged with the gold of its ancient tombs, through to the poverty and turmoil of a land at odds with itself.  The whole character and nature of the novel revolves around the effect that this beautiful country has on Harriet, Louisa and Yael.

Overall, I thought that there was much to enjoy within the novel. The slow and languorous nature of the narrative is entirely in keeping with the unhurried atmosphere of nineteenth century Egypt, and I am sure that this book will appeal to fans of well written historical fiction.

Many thanks to Josie for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library. Please do also visit Josie's fab book blog JaffaReadsToo!


  1. The connection with the ancient texts and philosophy make this sound particularly interesting. For me, something like this can put a historical fiction book a notch or two higher in my esteem.

  2. Reading this book sound like taking a 'literary holiday.' I look forward to booking my ticket...

  3. Lovely review Josie, I have found myself coming round to reading about tales set in historical periods. Will keep an eye out for this one.



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