What sort of life might you lead in a parallel universe?
I know what I would choose to be.
An archaeologist. Or, to be more, specific, an Egyptologist.
I've always felt drawn to Ancient Egypt.
I would love to travel down the Nile ...
... to walk on those same sands, under that same sun and gaze at the timeless features of images created thousands of years ago and to guess at their secrets.
In the meantime, over here in this universe, I've had to be content spending hours in The British Museum, imagining the hands that carved the flawless statues ... imagining the lives of the people they depict ...
Thanks to the power of fiction and the vivid imagination of one woman, I now have a clearer picture than ever before.
Allow me to explain.
Periodically, I receive emails from authors or their publicists asking me to review a particular book.
I've always sent a polite but firm refusal, explaining that I rarely publish reviews on my blog and only then when I have a close connection to either the author or the subject matter.
I received one such email a few months ago.
I was about to compose my standard response when the book's title caught my eye.
A single word.
Intrigued, I followed the links to Michelle Moran's site and blog.
And then emailed Michelle to tell her that I would be delighted to make an exception to my usual rule.
From the moment I held the book with its sumptuous cover I was drawn in, fascinated to learn more.
Narrated by Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti's younger sister, the book brings to life the period from 1351 BC to 1335 BC.
During those turbulent years, Nefertiti married Akhenaten, the Heretic King, bore him 6 daughters, presided over the virtual collapse of the once great kingdom, became Pharaoh in her own right, was widowed and finally died a violent death.
Michelle's rich evocative prose enables you to feel the desert heat, smell the herbs and spices and the sweet smell of death, taste the unfamiliar food and drink ...
Yet in terms of corruption and political intrigue, it seems little has changed in the last few thousand years.
The story of 2 very different sisters and the dynamics of their family life is likewise timeless.
The pacing is spot on and the dialogue positively crackles with authenticity, with only the very rare lapse into Americanisms.
Michelle quotes an Egyptian proverb:
To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.
Nefertiti, that ancient icon of beauty and power, is a name familiar to most of us, but I doubt if many will have any real insight into her story and character, or be able to picture the times in which she lived.
Thanks to this book, that need be the case no longer.
I have the feeling Nefertiti would approve.