March 8, 2012

Book: The Twelfth Transforming by Pauline Gedge

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 2:28 pm

At one level, you are convinced that this must really be history because no fictional work can be so rambling in its events.

Pauline Gedge seems to be dealing with historical fiction, history told by way of fictional characters, in the tradition of James Michener (For instance, see the review of Alaska elsewhere in this blog). But there are some differences, of course. First, Pauline Gedge deals with Anicient Egypt, Second, she seems to come at it from the opposite end as compared to Michener. Michener’s trademark is to take a single place, be it Alaska, the Caribbean or Poland, and examine it in the macro scale, tracing the entire history of the land from its known beginnings to the time the book was written. Gedge, on the other hand, takes a small event – even insubstantial event – in ancient Egyptian history that really occurred, and blows it up into a novel sized story, with scenes and dialogues imagined in her imaginative mind. Both result in very readable books.

Back to the book now. The story of Tiye, the empress of Egypt and wife of Amunhotep III quickly transforms itself into the story of Egypt itself, in one of its most unedifying moments. The sense of royal debauchery, the bizarre relationships among the royal household members, and the extent to which a wrong hand at the throne can drag the country down, given the assumption that Pharoah is God, come out starkly and clearly. You add the political assassinations and manipulations, and the mix becomes a
complex brew that constantly changes texture.

The story is well told, even in this rambling frame, and the chief actors are Tiye, her brother Ay, Kings Amuntohep III and IV, King
Aketaten, a complex procession of queens including Nefretiri and many others. The characters come alive and the ambience of ancient Egypt has been very well captured. It could be a bit too strong to stomach if you are a sensitive person because the description of the various relationships is a bit more graphic than in other books.

It is a well written story and deserves a 7/10

— Krishna


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