Book Reviews

Letters from Egypt: An Englishwoman on the Nile, 1862-69 by Lucie Duff Gordon

What Da Cover Says: In 1862, Lucie Duff Gordon left her husband and three children in England and settled in Egypt, where she remained for the rest of her short life. Seeking respite from her tuberculosis in the dry air, she moved into a ramshackle house above a temple in Luxor, and soon became an indispensable member of the community. Setting up a hospital in her home, she welcomed all – from slaves to local leaders.

What I Says: This was a fascinating insight into life in Egypt in the 1860’s just as things were becoming tense with the British Empire showing an interest in Egypt, there was one lady doing us proud. Lucie Duff Gordon was a remarkable woman suffering from tuberculosis for a number of years she has to move to a warmer climate for her health so she chooses Egypt. Instead of being like the usual English tourist and making huge demands of the locals and causing all sort of strife, she manages to become a member of the community. She surrounds herself with some wonderful people, the best being Omar who stayed loyal for the rest of her life, she starts to learn the language and whilst she wasn’t particularly wealthy she was still generous to those who needed her aid. Using her knowledge of medicine she was able to help many people and word soon spread and she was known about wherever she went.

I found her letters easy to read, finding out about local traditions and the various religions active around her was very interesting. I loved her sense of humour and her lack of fear when it came to describing what the government was doing to it’s people…far different to what was reported to the rest of the world. Again and again she shows her disdain for colonial England and high ranking officials who show no respect for those she cares about. She was living in a time with slavery and when a slave would come to her begging to be purchased from their owner she didn’t shy away and gave them a good life, clothing, wages and an education…it seems that everybody she met fell in love with her.

You know there is only one outcome and that is the tuberculosis winning the battle, it was so sad seeing her health deteriorating through her letters, they become shorter and less frequent and still she remained upbeat wanting to come home or organise visits. Her last letter though, that is the one to break your heart.

There is one thing this book has shown me and that is that letter writing is a dying art that has been destroyed by social media, who writes letters these days when you can get all you need to say down in 280 characters on Twitter.

Another book by the mighty Eland which was a pleasure to read and again I love that they are keeping books like this alive.

If you want a copy of this book, and I recommend that you do need one, then you can get it from HERE:

2 thoughts on “Letters from Egypt: An Englishwoman on the Nile, 1862-69 by Lucie Duff Gordon

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