Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

 Featuring Bit, age 7

Looking back at my reading history I am pretty sure I can trace my love of political intrigue to Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, which I read for the first time while in the sixth grade. It was my gateway drug. It might seem strange to some that I decided to do at as a read aloud with my second grader. It is a twisty book with a complex plot, but she can pretty much tackle easier MG offerings completely on her own and I wanted to try something that would challenge her brain a bit. She is loving her history unit on Ancient Egypt and was really excited about this book.

The Story
Slavery is the only life Mara has ever known. One master taught her to read, write, speak Babylonian, and use her head. When Mara finds herself with  a harsher master who cares naught for any of those skills she amuses herself by escaping the manor grounds and stealing pastries from unsuspecting bread boys. Mara's skills capture the attentions of a dangerous man who buys her to make her his spy. He wants her to keep an eye on the young Thutmose, who is being denied his throne by his sister Hatshepsut. Mara is to figure out how messages from the rebellion are getting to him and anything she can about the secret plans. If she does this she will earn her freedom. Soon after being sent on her way to achieve this she finds herself in the clutches of the rebel leader himself, the handsome young charismatic Lord Sheftu. He harasses Mara into his service as well and soon she is playing a dangerous double game trying to keep her life and promised freedom while playing both of the opposing sides. However, Mara is in over head in more ways than one as she sees Egypt in danger, the rightful king denied his place, and the Pharaoh Queen's extravagance. Then there is her relationship with Sheftu, which grows more complicated with each passing day. Her considerable wits may not be enough to untangle the coil she has gotten herself snared in.


Bit's Thoughts
I think that Mara, Daughter of the Nile is a great book. It takes place during the time of Hatshepsut in Egypt. My favorite character is Mara. I think that she is brave. The only thing Mara wants is to be free and I wanted her to get her freedom. My second favorite character is Sheftu. I also think that he is brave. The book is action packed. It kept me wanting to know what would happen next. Some things I could not quite understand and there were a lot of characters. I still really enjoyed it.

My Thoughts
I have fond memories of this book from my own childhood. It definitely made an impact on my life as a reader. It is full of adventure, mystery, intrigue, danger, and also a bit of romance. It also probably played a large part in forming the types of heroes I like. Sheftu is quite the sarcastic, deceptively lazy, brilliant mastermind. And we know how much I like those kind of heroes. Mara is more than a match for his wits though and the dialogue between the two of them are some the best parts of the book. I think that now. When I was younger I appreciated different aspects of the story, the action and the kissing mostly. It is nice to come back to a book years after reading it and find new things about it to love.

Note on Content: This book will not make the best read aloud for all second graders. Bit went into this story with a strong knowledge of the historical period and the culture of the time.  The romance in it is not at all subtle. There are a couple of kissing scenes, which some younger children might not like and some parents might not want them exposed to. (Bit thought the kissing was awesome.) There is also quite a bit of danger and Mara does have to endure some violence toward the end of the book.

What Bit and I are reading next: 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

10 comments:

  1. I have never read this, but it sounds like I should--I would probably think the kissing was awesome too!

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  2. I quite like the kissing myself. :)

    And yes you should read it!

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  3. I think I got the recommendation for this one either from Sounis or Athanarel. I enjoyed reading but didn't love it as I expected. I should do a reread and see if I've changed my mind (also so I can review the book in my blog). You know the musical Aida? I was reminded of this book when I watched that performance.

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    1. Aida does have the same sort of atmosphere to it. The book is most definitely a product of its time (first published in 1953) as far as the language and drama in the plot are concerned, but I think it is still one of the best examples of a political intrigue with a strong heroine there is.

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  4. Oh! I loved that one growing up. Haven't read it in at least 5 years, but now I'm hankering to.

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    1. It had been a while for me too, but reading it again was so much fun.

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  5. haha she would like the kissing parts. :-) I probably would too. Yea 100 Cupboards is next!

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    1. We read the first three chapters last night. She woke up asking when we could start again.

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  6. I can't wait to see what she thinks of 100 cupboards! Wow. Elf is so not ready for these kinds of books. I'm thinking Ella Enchanted for us next :-)

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    1. Bit and Elf are a year and a half apart in age. (They play so well together I sometimes forget that). We did Ella Enchanted nearly a year ago so you're getting there!

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