Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister
|Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A quirky, quintessentially British story about two unfortunate offspring of batty amateur Egyptologist parents and the senior citizens those children become. This deftly written, heady mixture of poignancy and eccentricity is just the thing if you fancy a change from literacy humdrum.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: Salt Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
Twins Isis and Osiris are now in their 90s, living together in Little Egypt, the English manor house where they were born and brought up. Their names are a clue to their parents' near fetish for everything Egyptian. In fact this near fetish leads their parents to Egypt itself, in search of a big discovery back in the 1920s, demonstrating more enthusiasm than savvy. Having left the twins in the care of the housekeeper, they never return. Isis and Osiris are now bound to the house, tied not by love or memories but dark secrets that won't let go.
English novelist and playwright Lesley Glaister is someone for whom story telling is a first language. She's at home when furtling through the dysfunctional side of life, albeit as different in dysfunctionality as the life of a child killer (Nina Todd Has Gone) is from someone innocently applying for a job in Australia, not realising what awaits (As Far as You Can Go). However all her novels have a common ease (common as in shared, not vulgar!) that draws us in, capturing our minds and leading us into scenes of total surprise; sometimes happy, sometimes shocking or tearful but always worth us shutting the world out for. You can guess what's coming next: yes, here in Little Egypt Lesley does it again.
For instance we meet Isis in her early 90s initially. Is she reading quietly or watching TV with a rug on her knees? No, first time we meet her she's at the back of a supermarket with Spike, an anarchic American, being taught the finer points and ethos of skip diving. See what I mean?
We then travel back and forth in time between the dear, sweet elderly Isis and the child who, along with her twin, replaces the love of her parents with the love of Mary the homely housekeeper through necessity. Not that Mary minds but she would have preferred it if she'd been paid from time to time! Even the words 'Mother' and 'Father' have escaped the children's vocabulary, as they refer to them instead as Evelyn and Arthur. As the parents are away trying to out-Howard-Carter Howard Carter, they don't seem to mind or realise the significance of the lost relationship.
If you don't like chronological jumping in a novel, I would urge you to at least borrow a copy as you may be pleasantly surprised. The switching isn't confusing or jarring in any way and, when the plot requires it (e.g. during the children's centrepiece adventure) we stay in one place allowing the suspense to be built without our focus straying so we enjoy (and thrill) unencumbered; that’s pacing wizardry!
Talking of Lesley's wizardry, it also extends to the characters. This is a novel brim-full of varied and contagious people, skilfully balanced between tragedy and comedy without falling into panto. For instance, the children's Uncle Victor is touchingly portrayed once we see through the fun laissez-fair playboy exterior through to what he's trying to escape but can't outrun.
The twins also have a secret or two revealed gradually as the story unfolds, showing they're bound by more than flesh and blood. Indeed Little Egypt is packed with adventure, delight and not a little sadness as it animates before us in a way that's as memorable as it is rewarding.
Thank you Salt Publishing for providing us with a copy for review!
Further Reading: If this appeals, we definitely recommend Lesley's Nina Todd Has Gone. If you've already read this, we point you towards Toni Jordan another author who weaves plots and characters that stick around in our psyche.
You can read more book reviews or buy Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister at Amazon.co.uk
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.