This week, we’ll be looking at several books that deal with ancient history–including Greek and Roman culture. Toward that end, I asked our intern, Hayley Schoeppler, to review one of her favorite “classic” novels dealing with the subject. Happily, she obliged with this short and sweet review of one of her favorites, Mara, Daughter of the Nile.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Puffin, 1985. Ages 12-up.
Readers of The Golden Goblet will know that Eloise Jarvis McGraw can weave an excellent tale of historical fiction taking place in Egypt. What they may not realize is that she wrote another story for older readers, Mara, Daughter of the Nile.
As Mara, Daughter of the Nile opens, Hatshepsut is pharaoh. A powerful woman who claims divine right to the throne, she pours money into lavish projects. Meanwhile the army is neglected and unrest threatens Egyptian borders.
Into this enters Sheftu, a trusted favorite of the queen who is secretly plotting against her. He will go to all ends to have Hatshepsut deposed from the throne in favor of her brother, Thutmose. In Thutmose, Sheftu sees a leader who will truly serve Egypt. Sheftu leads a double life, most know him as a pampered court official. But some know him as Sashai, a scribe who is weaving together a band of rebels willing to rise against Hatshepsut.
Caught in this deadly game of intrigue, Mara enters Hatshepsut’s court serving as translator for a Babylonian princess. A young slave girl, Mara is one of only a handful who know Sheftu in both of his roles. Drawn together by a twisting, turning series of events, Mara and Sheftu begin to feel an attraction toward each other. For Mara though, quick-witted and quick-tongued, love is a foreign concept. The only constant she knows from a shifting world of slave masters and drudgery is self-preservation. What is more, Mara holds a secret that could wreck Sheftu’s hopes and ruin all of his plans but in the process lead to her freedom.
Told with a shifting narrative, Mara, Daughter of the Nile, is much more than a romantic tale of two lovers. Rather, it is an exciting, fast-paced story that explores friendship, love, trust, and loyalty to one’s country. Much of this is shown as Mara gradually realizes that there is much more to life than seeking her own happiness. For Sheftu, disillusioned by the way loyalty can be bought, comes the realization that true loyalty cannot be purchased. Values, virtues, and character are on display as the story unfolds. In the end, Mara and Sheftu’s love for each other does not conquer all obstacles. Instead it is their love for a higher thing, in this case, Egypt, that will ultimately bring them together.
Worldview/Moral Value: 4 (out of 5)
Literary Value: 4.5
Thanks, Hayley! We’ll be covering more fun reads about ancient history later in the week, but I wonder if you guys have any favorites? I’d love to add some to my library queue!
If you’re looking for more fun history reads for kids, try our Shakespeare post, Growing Up Shakespearean. Or read about a great Dickens-related novel in The Best of Toms. And for today–Monday, March 4–only, I have to recommend this super sale of the Lamplighter audiobooks and ebooks for kids.