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Dreamers of the Day: A Novel Paperback – December 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Agnes has quite an inferiority complex engendered by her mother's constant criticism, a lack of self confidence about her looks and her abilities. The first section of this book details her upbringing and shows just who she is, a living, breathing person. Almost as a sidelight to this exemplary characterization, this section informs the reader of effects of the Great Influenza pandemic of 1918-9 and is a great depiction of the mores, customs, and daily life of that time, making some great commentary on just why that way of life disappeared so suddenly, to be replaced by the `roaring twenties'. But this first section of the book is merely an introduction, for when the flu kills off everyone else in her family, leaving Agnes the sole inheritor of various estates, she decides to take a trip to Egypt and the Holy Land, inspired by her late sister's forays in this area of the world.
The second section is the heart of this novel, as Agnes arrives in Egypt and through some fortuitous circumstances becomes a distant part of the group of people present at time in Cairo, from Churchill and Lawrence to Lady Gertrude Bell, who would eventually determine the political landscape of the middle east for many years to come, and the effects of which are still being felt today.Read more ›
Speaking from somewhere beyond the grave, our protagonist, Agnes Shanklin, a very plain spinster schoolmarm from Ohio, takes us through WWI, the Spanish Flu pandemic and finally to Egypt on the brink of the Cairo Conference where, somewhat arbitrarily, the Middle East was divvied up and which set into motion the history that we are now experiencing. Of course we have perfect hind-sight, but that makes Agnes' observations all the more interesting. And then there is romance...just the right amount for this sweeping story and completely within context and character of our delightful narrator.
I've been a Russell fan since a friend urged me to read a novel she said was about "Jesuit priests who go to a distant planet"...and I thought to myself "is she KIDDING?" I agreed to give "The Sparrow" a try and then couldn't put it down and raced out to get the sequel before I was half-way done. Her novels get better and better, and though I tried to make this one last by slowing down...I couldn't. Now I'm sad because I have to wait for the next one which can't come soon enough for me.
It seems as if Russell couldn't decide if she should be writing a non-fiction history of the era and events that transpired, or a novel. In the end, this book fails on both accounts and just seems contrived. Agnes Shanklin, the main character, is "described" to us through her narration about herself and her life, but we never feel we really know Agnes. In fact, we don't really get to know anyone, nor invest any feeling in any of the characters. Each and every one of them, from the the nobodies, to the history makers, come off as nothing more than summaries of themselves and their world.
This is a very short book, and an easy read, but it drags, so seems much longer. Russell could have made this such a better book. Had it been 2, or even 3, times longer, with fleshed out characters and more fictional imaginings woven into the history, this could have been a truly great book. Clavell, McCullough, Rutherford, George, Penman, Follett and many, many more - all have written much more gripping and engaging stories that kept the reader involved, even riveted, against a background of very real historical facts.
Though this is Russell's 4th book, I consider it a first attempt in the historical fiction genre . I am very surprised by all the great reviews this book has garnered. I just hope Russell doesn't believe them all and gives us something more worthy next time.
Ms Russell clearly set out to accomplish many things with this book. She had a history lesson to teach and some philosophical and political opinions to put across. It's not surprising that she would select an elementary teacher as her narrator and protagonist. (We do tend to be pedantic.) Agnes is a 40 year-old spinster fifth grade teacher at the time of the 1918 flu epidemic. The epidemic wipes out her entire family and leaves her with enough money to quit her job and seek personal liberation in Egypt and Palestine. Up to this point the book is probable historical fiction. The description of the great flu epidemic gives a clear picture of the devastation.
Once she arrives in Egypt, the story veers into the range of historical fantasy. How likely is it that a fifth grade teacher from Ohio would not only meet but socialize with T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell and Winston Churchill? However, given that the author's goal is to insure that we are all smarter than a 5th grader regarding the history of our current mess in the middle east, the story is at least an entertaining lesson. I think Doria Russell chose the perfect narrator for her book. She wanted to teach and preach. Who better than a school teacher to tell the story?
This story did not measure up to Ms Russell's previous books, but taken on its own, it was an enjoyable read.
Oh, did I mention that the school teacher had a dog? A dachshund, called Rosie. I really enjoyed the dog.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of my favorite books. The fictional part is most entertaining and
the historical aspect is well researched.
A realistic look at how today's Middle East problem came to be.Published 1 month ago by Robert C. Price
Because the author is one of my favorites, I decided to find out what I could learn about a period of history I had not studied in detail. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Toast Lover
The three main sections of the book were very different from each other. I like the "middle east" section the best. Read morePublished 3 months ago by mcz
I loved this book. I read it a couple of years ago and the story really stuck with me. From the female perspective and thinking of the times she was living in, to travel around... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Michelle Kenneth
Russell is a very good writer. This is not her best book. in Dreamers of the Day she is perhaps too concerned with history and less with character and plot development. Read morePublished 6 months ago by susan pearlstein
I was able to get into immediately which often I can't. I would recommend it to others.Published 6 months ago by Brenda Smith