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It Happened in Egypt

May 9, 2007

I finished the final paper for my English class this morning — and if anyone wants to talk about characters who keep their crazy wives locked up a la Mr. Rochester, I’m your girl — and I finally have time to post about It Happened in Egypt, by A.M and C.N. Williamson, a book I actually ended up quoting in my paper. That may not have been the best idea, but it’s no worse than the time I quoted a Five Little Peppers book on one of my high school English finals. I just can’t keep the good books and the bad books from getting mixed up in my head.

Not that It Happened in Egypt is bad, exactly. It’s just a fairly typical romantic adventure novel. The Williamsons — a husband-and-wife pair — wrote lots of them. This one centers around a group of English and American tourists traveling through Egypt. The narrator is Lord Ernest Borrow, an slightly impoverished Irish nobleman whose older brother is the marquis of something or other. He and his pal Anthony Fenton, an army captain stationed in Egypt, think they know where to find a buried treasure, and Lord Ernest has just taken four months’ leave from his job in the diplomatic corps to join Anthony in Egypt. Ernest was born there, but this is the first time he’s been back since he was four.

On the boat over, he runs into Brigit O’Brien, a childhood friend he used to be in love with. Her husband, now dead, was some kind of radical political figure, and Brigit is convinced that his enemies are still after her and her stepdaughter Esme. Brigit’s traveling with Rosamond Gilder, a famous American heiress. She makes up for having such a heroine-y name by going by “Monny”. Brigit thinks that Ernest should marry Monny. Monny’s other traveling companions are a schoolteacher from Salem called Rachel Guest and Monny’s aunt, Mrs. East, who believes herself to be a reincarnation of Cleopatra.

All kinds of stuff happens. There’s a creepy Armenian guy who follows them around, a Turk who married an American girl under false pretenses and is keeping her under lock and key, a possible conspiracy to kidnap Monny — the kidnappers are under the impression that she’s Brigit’s stepdaughter–and various people trying to excavate the spot where Ernest and Anthony hope to find treasure.

The whole bunch of them — and many more, after Ernest and Anthony become the directors of a tour group — go up the Nile together, various people get engaged to each other, and they do eventually find the treasure, but Monny won’t let them keep it.

All in all, a fun book, aside from the unfair ending. I was pretty impressed by the fact that it took me a couple of chapters to figure out who was going to fall in love with who.

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