The day before Christmas, a package arrived from The Random House Publishing Group: an Advance Reader's Edition of Mary Doria Russell's new novel - Dreamers of the Day.
At 255 pages, it was the perfect length to fit in between preparations and celebrations. (But I'm a speed reader.) I cruised the story as slowly as possible, savoring the characters and the setting. What do you get when you put Rosie the Dachshund, Karl the German spy, T. E. Lawrence and an Ohio schoolteacher in Cairo, Egypt? Why, an enchanting novel, full of explorations and discoveries - of foreign places, of famous people, even of the self.
There is so much I want to tell you about Dreamers of the Day, but I won't diminish the charm you will find in discovering them for yourself. My only complaint at the end of this book was that it was that it was over too soon. Perhaps that is also good - an author, like a party hostess, wants to always stop while people are still asking for more.
Already I have revisited the story and its protagonist, Agnes Shanklin, in my mind, considering certain scenes, turning them this way and that in the light of retrospection, to see if they maintain their purity. Yes, Russell's writing shines with originality. Although her work and her acknowledgments show her to be a careful craftsman, she weaves real events and famous people into her story with a light touch, producing a fresh perspective.
The ending was a total surprise, yet fit the rest of the narrative perfectly. This is a book I will read more than once. Very highly recommended.
Russell's previous work, A Thread of Grace, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.