Finished The Egyptologist. I then checked out the Amazon reviews. A very mixed bag there. Partly, the problem is that some folks bought this book expecting a standard historical mystery/thriller in the vein of Elizabeth Peters. The book is not that at all. It’s a literary novel that explores class divides, poverty, madness, and self-absorption. It’s also a dark comedy, more like the movie Heathers where Christian Slater goes around killing the snobby girls that Wynona Ryder hates. The Egyptologist is Heathers in costume. But only sort of, so don’t let that statement make you think you know the plot.
Some people were upset to have figured out the main twist early on. In fact, I think it’s deliberately set up that way, but I also think it remains ambiguous enough for at least half of the book that you aren’t entirely sure what you think is the truth. It becomes increasingly obvious that you were right, however, but even then I don’t think you expect the ending. The answers to the questions are all there for the careful reader. I admit that being inside the head of Ralph Trilipush for such long stretches does get annoying, however. I know he’s a pompous ass and I don’t need to be banged over the head with it repeatedly.
But the book got a good review from Barbara Mertz, who also happens to be Dr. Barbara Mertz, PhD in Egyptology (U of Chicago, no slouch there). Dr. BM is also Barbara Michaels, novelist, and also, if you didn’t know it, Elizabeth Peters, the author of the wonderful Amelia Peabody series. Dr. Barbara Mertz, aka Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters knows her stuff when it comes to Egypt. She also knows how to tell a rollicking good tale, so for those who bemoaned the fact this book was nothing like the Amelia Peabody books, well, it wasn’t meant to be and she knew it. It’s a literary novel, not a thriller, and it’s darned fine for what it does.
After finishing The Egyptologist at midnight, I picked up Doctorow’s new book. Mike is on a business trip to DC, so I didn’t have anyone beside me asking me to please turn out the light. In spite of that first long sentence, the story so far moves along at a good clip. Much quicker paced than the Egypt book. The first scene, in fact, reminds me of Aunt Pitty Pat in her carriage shrieking to Scarlett that they need to get out of Atlanta before Sherman gets there. You can’t start off a book much more tensely than with Sherman marching along behind you and torching everything in sight. This book promises to be a fairly quick read, surprisingly. We’ll see.