LADY OF THE REEDS by Pauline Gedge


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Another lavishly detailed epic of ancient Egypt from the New Zealand-born author of The Twelfth Transforming (1984), etc., as well as Stargate, a 1982 science-fiction title recently made into a movie. Here, Thu, a young woman more A.D. 1990s than 1100s B.C., will take on both Ramses III and the powerful priesthood as she strives for power, fame, and her beloved Egypt. The narrator of her own story of rags to riches and back to rags, Thu is an uneasy mix of Louisa May Alcott's Jo and one of Stephen King's adolescent horrors--the blue-eyed daughter of peasants who, right from toddlerhood, yearns for something better. As a girl, Thu is trained by her illiterate mother--the local midwife, family-planner, and abortionist--to follow in her footsteps. But, in secret, Thu, knowing she'll not make a good midwife, gets her older brother to teach her to read. A quick study, she dreams of leaving the village. ""I must get away from here or I will die,"" she says. And get away she does as, at only 12, she sneaks aboard the barge of visiting state seer and physician Hui and offers herself to him. Hui, however, has recently seen a blue-eyed girl in a vision and has other plans for this child. She's taken back to his home in the city, where she's taught history, politics, the appropriate etiquette and dress for a lady, as well as how to administer poisons. Thu is also cold-bloodedly ruthless and, with Hui's help, becomes for a time the favorite concubine of the Pharaoh. Later, when rejected by Ramses, she tries to murder him and his current favorite. She'll survive the incident--though in disgrace. Splendid set-piece scenes cry out for movie treatment, but Thu is an anachronistic and unconvincing early Egyptian feminist.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1995
Page count: 513pp
Publisher: Soho