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Great Subject - Unsatisfying Read
on 4 January 2006
Browsing in a post Christmas sale I found this book had a chapter dedicated to a historian about whom I wanted to know more - so I snapped it up. The bonus was to be that it would begin to build my knowledge of Egyptology.
Reading the book did a bit of both. It covers the ‘discovery’ of ancient Egypt over the last 200 years and I now have a much better picture of my admired historian who was also a distinguished Egyptologist.
Alas, my anticipated enjoyment of the book and the account it had to give was significantly curtailed. The author intruded unnecessarily. At first it was simply a poor introductory analysis of the fascination of Egypt. Then there were occasional flashes of her worldview (eg the introduction of Christianity to Egypt was a greater cultural disaster than the destruction of the library at Alexandria!), and sometimes doubtful accuracy (How does she know the average English male in the 1800s was less than 5’ tall?). And then there is the remarkably sloppy passage about the difference between transparent and translucent.
All in all lots of interesting information here, but in places it seems accuracy is trumped by opinion and the prose is, at times, indifferent.
The historian about whom I wanted to know more? The formidable, and marvellously named, Flinders Petrie. But I should have passed over this book in the sale and sought a fullscale biography.