Thursday, September 17, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: "Down the Nile" by Rosemary Mahoney

"Down the Nile: Along in a Fisherman's Skiff" by Rosemary Mahoney

This book was given to me by a friend from college as I departed to relocated to Cairo, Egypt. I did enjoy it because it was an easy read. I got through it in about two weeks and I was taking my sweet time.

It's about a woman who decides to row a boat down the Nile River. Seems uneventful enough, but it's full of numerous Egyptian filled tales. Some of the tales, I think, are just those happenstance moments and not generally how life is in Egypt. The author makes mention of two different stories about having conversations w/Egyptian men and the topic always veers to foreign women and sex.

I did like reading about Amr, a reluctant felucca captain. She wrote about him in a way that I feel like I know him. His positiveness and his frustrations were highlighted quite nicely. Now I want to go to Aswan and say hello to Amr.

One story that stood out for me was the chapter about Amr's sister. When Mahoney wrote about Hoda and Hoda's friends, I felt like I was in the room amidst all the cheery chaos. Maybe I'm just enamored w/hearing/reading about a lifestyle, the Muslim woman's, that is often suppressed.

Mahoney's writing was descriptive too. And it was nice to visualize the places that I've yet to travel to. Her choice of words was quite extensive. I eventually got out a highlighter to make note of all of the words I'd never heard of before. Some of them were rowing terms like ghat and gunwales, but there were others like uxorious, faience and opprobrium. Made me realize that I do not currently own a dictionary and I need to do something about that.

At the first mention Florence Nightingale (most popularly known as a British nurse), I just kind of brushed it off thinking that it was a single point of reference. But then there was another mention and then countless mentions and all so appropriately referenced, that I will more than likely read Nightingale's "Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile". Mahoney also makes mention of French writer Gustave Flaubert as much as she mentions Nightingale. The point was made that although those folks traveled the Nile centuries ago, alot has changed, but some things have not changed.

Even though Mahoney encountered some difficulty getting a boat to row in the Nile, the book is more about the journey - getting the boat and the relationships she encounters on the way. I enjoyed it and I'd recommend it as well.

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