"...the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." -- T. E. Lawrence
The Cairo Conference, the one in 1921, is one of the most pivotal points in modern history in that it set the stage for much of the world's current problems in the Middle East. Possibly all of them. The best thing that can be said it about it is that, thankfully, the United States wasn't involved in what happened. It's difficult for me to understand how it is that any man or group of men can think it's okay to determine the destiny and place in the world of people who have not agreed to that. That would be rather like me coming into your house, organizing it to meet my own needs, telling you which parts of your own house you were allowed to be in, and which possessions were still yours. Let me give you a hint: it's not the oil.
This is the backdrop against which Mary Doria Russell sets her historical fiction novel, Dreamers of the Day. And what a great title. Have I mentioned how much I like a good title? Not today? Well, I do, and that's a great title. Fortunately, it's from a quote by T. E. Lawrence, so, you know, if I ever decide I want to use it, I can, and I won't even have to feel bad about it. Lawrence, of course, is a central figure in the book.
I've been fascinated with Lawrence for a couple of decades at least. Probably longer. He's such an interesting person in history, and, I think, Russell did a more than admirable job of portraying him in the book. He certainly "felt" right based upon what I know of him. Not that it's easy to know what a person was like from reading about him in history, but, still...
One of the things I like most about Russell is that her books are not all cookie cutters of each other as is the case with many authors. Each of her books has a unique feel and perspective, often unsettling at first when you go in expecting something resembling a previous work of hers.
In The Sparrow we have third person past from one character in two different time settings. There's the story of what's happening now and the story of what happened in the past, and the thing that makes it so captivating is that you can't figure out how what happened lead to what's happening.
Children of God (sequel to Sparrow) is also third person past but has multiple perspectives and is, kind of, what's happening now and what's happening in the future. It's an interesting shift.
A Thread of Grace is third person present with multiple perspectives, and it really through me off when I started it. After her other two books, it just felt sort of wrong. Until I got into it.
Dreamers of the Day is first person past but also break occasionally for the narrator to speak to the audience. The beginning is very much a "let me tell you how this all started" and was kind of weird, and, again, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. But I did. If you have any interest in history, the book is especially fascinating.
At any rate, she has not satisfied herself with having any particular style that is recognizably hers other than having superb writing. She tries new things every time, and I like that.
Dreamers also has an interesting ending. There are hints all through the book, but, for me, I kept thinking, "Nah, she wouldn't do that," but she did, and it managed to add extra weight to the book. I'd tell you about it, but I don't want to ruin it for anyone.
The Sparrow is still my favorite book by Russell, but each of her books has been excellent, and I'm looking forward to working Doc into my reading schedule.
Oh, and, now, once again, I want to read Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. One of these days, I need to get around to that.
"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible."