Agnes Shanklin, a 40-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio, is still reeling from the tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic. A modest inheritance allows her to take the trip of a lifetime and travel to Egypt and the Holy Land. Arriving just as the Cairo Peace Conference of 1921 begins, Agnes becomes an observer and confident of the historic players – including Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) – that will, in the course of a few days, invent the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan.
Best known for her award winning science fiction novels, Russell’s Dreamers of the Day is historical fiction at it’s best – the characters and their actions are believable and the history is made real through the skillful use of period details and atmosphere. “Seeing” the formation of these countries and the divisions of loyalties – many of which have lead directly to issues we still face in the region today – was fascinating and enlightening.
There’s more than history here, though – you will get caught up in Agnes’ personal story, her triumphs and set-backs, her clear-eyed perspective as she and her little dog Rosie walk in history’s shadow.