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Scenes from a Life Paperback – December 20, 2013
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About the Author
Richard Abbott lives in London, England. He writes about the ancient middle east - Egypt, Canaan and Israel - and has also contributed to the lively academic debate about these times.
He also writes science fiction set in the near future of our solar system. He has a keen interest in exploring how human and artificially intelligent individuals will combine and relate to each other.
His first book, In a Milk and Honeyed Land, explores events in the Egyptian province of Canaan at the end of the Bronze Age, around 1200BC. It follows the life, loves, and struggles of a priest in the small hill town of Kephrath.
A follow-up novel entitled Scenes from a Life begins in Egypt. It follows the journey of a scribe as he travels to discover his origins. down the Nile from Luxor and finally out into Canaan.
A third book, The Flame Before Us, is set in the middle of calamity. New settlers are arriving from the north, sacking cities and disrupting the established ways of life as they come. This story follows several different groups each trying to adjust to the new situation.
Richard Abbott works professionally in IT quality assurance. When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.
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The author is a trained scholar of ancient Egyptian and Hebrew, and a keen observer of the archeologies of the Bronze Age Near East. His aim here is to bring to life the ordinary folk of that time, and to tell their stories with attention and care.
Makty-Rasut, the central character, is a scribe and artist who decorates the tombs of Egyptian religious officials. This means knowing Egyptian hieroglyphics as well as how to draw those characteristic side-facing figures familiar to many. He is charged with depicting "scenes from the life" of the one commissioning the tomb.
This theme of crafting moments extends out to Abbott's practice in this book, which is not to tell the story of Makty-Rasut linearly, but in alternating scenes from his life-- and from those of other folk related to him-- that normally would be called flashbacks. In this case, the term isn't appropriate, because it implies a digression. Here, the scenes are carefully ordered to create a progressively fuller picture of who Makty-Rasut is and why he behaves as he does.
"Scenes from a Life" is a "historical" by genre, but only because the story unfolds in the past. It explores much more deeply the commonalities of humans throughout the ages: who am I, where did I come from, who are my friends, what is my purpose in life.
Sometimes the observation is gently humorous, such as when Makty has to deal with a subordinate who can't get to work on time. Sometimes it is uncomfortable, as in Makty's relationship with the non-Egyptian woman Milashuniyet. Anyone who has spent any time trying to understand and live with a member of the opposite sex will see him or herself in this literary mirror.
Does Makty's life change forever? Of course it does. But don't expect the end of the world.
"Scenes from a Life" is handsomely produced for the Kindle, and includes fascinating background material for the linguistically and historically curious. I found I had large numbers of questions to ask the author after reading this book, but at the same time was absolutely satisfied.
At first, the main character Makty Rasut, an ancient Egyptian scribe specializing in the design and decoration of tombs, is an interesting but not particularly empathetic character. As the story flows through a series of dreams and real life encounters, his past and the depths of his personality are gently revealed. The author employs a technique I've never encountered before, with a chapter concerning the past alternating with one in the present. It works, connecting people, places, events, and cleverly reveals to us what makes this young man tick. What surprised me was the timelessness of some of Makty's concerns and how relative they are in our modern world.
But with Dr. Abbott's works, history and life truths go hand in hand. I found the history of tomb design/decoration and the description of life in New Kingdom Egypt and the area of Canaan to be very interesting. The author provides notes, maps, and a glossary that, in my opinion, comprise a small primer on the lands and people of those times.
I was glad to become reacquainted with some favorite characters from his previous book "In a Milk and Honeyed Land". Richard Abbott's stories are not over-emotional, but they are beautiful and sensitive. They are not textbooks, but the reader cannot help but learn. They are not travel books or fantasies, yet one is transported.
Canaan leads him to find what he lost in the past(won't say more about that-no spoilers)... The author, as he did in the first book in the series, In A Milk and Honeyed Land, describes what life was like in 1200 BC in exquisite detail and brings to life the culture of the Nile Valley and of the hill country to the north. Full of emotional highs and lows the story unfolds a tapestry woven with all the pieces that make up what it is to be human, then and now. If you're looking for some well written historical fiction about an era not as well covered as say, ancient Greece or Rome, then I cannot recommend highly enough this series by Richard Abbott. I will be going on to book three as quick as I can. 5 stars.
About the author:
Richard lives in London, England and writes about the ancient middle east - Egypt, Canaan and Israel. His interest began with a study of how styles of literature and poetry were shared cross-culturally in the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages. Having taken those studies as far as he wanted on an academic level, he switched to using the material as background for historical fiction. In a Milk and Honeyed Land and its successors sprang out of the desire to tell the stories of ordinary town and village life of those days, rather than the exploits of kings and conquerors.
He works professionally in IT quality assurance. When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.
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Title: Scenes From A Life
Author: Richard Abbott