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Weekly Geeks 2009.11: Historical Fiction, Amelia Peabody Style!

by Kim on March 24, 2009 · 16 comments

wg-relaxing-url5I’ve been pretty negligent about Weekly Geeks as of late; however, I’m back for this weeks edition, written by Ali from Wordcupia, which is all about historical fiction. Ali had a lot of questions, but here are the ones I liked best:

Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn’t have to be a Weekly Geek participant).

If you check out my reading list, you’ll see that as of late I haven’t been a huge historical fiction reader.  However, as a high schooler (which is not that long ago, actually, five years? Eek!), I was completely obsessed with the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters.

Set in Egypt near the end of the 1800s, the series is a mix of mystery, historical fiction, romance, adventure, and comedy that spans “three generations, a world war, and thirty-five years of turbulent history.”  Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson is a feisty, funny, and flawed main narrator, and she is surrounded by a host of family members and other characters that fill out the story.

What makes this series so great is that there is a little something for every kind of reader. Peabody (as Amelia is referred to by her husband, Emerson), starts the series as a “confirmed spinster, suffragist, and scholar.”  After her marriage, she retains her spunky personality, but also learns and grows with her husband. I love strong, independent female characters, and I also love romance; this series brings both of those things together.  Plus, as the Emerson’s only son Ramses grows up, there is quite a lot of romance for him too!

In addition, these books spend a ton of time on Egyptology, a topic I used to be obsessed with.  Most of the books are set in Egypt during the archaeology season (fall to spring), and center around the Emerson families dig. The accuracy of the history and mythology might be a little loose for hardcore Egyptologists, I’m not sure, but since I didn’t know any better it didn’t bug me.

The first book in the series, The Crocodile on the Sandbank, was published in 1975.  The most recent, The Tomb of the Golden Bird, came out in 2006.  There are a total of 18 books in the series, plus rumors of a few more coming, so if you like them it’ll take you a long time to finish them all.

I looked back over the list of the entire series today, and I’ve only read about 15. I think that’s because I got to a point where I had caught up with the rate the books were being published and therefore couldn’t check them out from the library anymore.  I’m notoriously awful at paying attention to when new books arrive, so I just sort of lost track of the series.  After bringing it up again for Weekly Geeks, I might be making some adjustments to my summer reading list!

Other Reviews: Marg at Reading Adventures reviewed He Shall Thunder in the Sky and The Falcon at the Portal (she liked both), and Beth at Beth Fish Reads reviewed The Hippopotamus Pool (which she thought was a bit of a dud in an otherwise good series).

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Care March 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Hmmm, historical fiction + strong spunky female character + romance + Egpytian setting = sounds fun!

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Dorte H March 24, 2009 at 3:13 pm

As we both know, it is very difficult to say something sensible about reviews of books one hasn´t read LOL
But this reminds me that I must remember Weekly Geeks on Thursday (that will be crime-related, obviously, but one of those series which can be read & enjoyed by most people).

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alirambles March 25, 2009 at 12:47 am

These look like fun books! And I love that the question offered the chance for you to reminisce about a genre you’d left behind for a while.

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julia March 25, 2009 at 9:21 am

I’ve been obsessed with Dark Age Britain ever since I first read Mary Stewart’s ‘Crystal Cave’ when I was in grade six. The books that swept me back into that time and space lately have been Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Winter King’ series.

Here’s a link to a review:

http://www.ferrouslands.com/2009/02/saxon-series-by-bernard-cornwell.html

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Marg March 26, 2009 at 4:34 am

I look forward to each instalment of this series when I get to it! I think I will be reading the next one in the next few weeks! Woo-hoo!

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suziqoregon March 28, 2009 at 10:55 am

I’ve been working my way through this series on audio. The first few were read by Susan O’Malley and the last couple I’ve put in my itunes library are read by Barbara Rosenblat. Both are good readers, but I could listen to Barbara Rosenblat read the phone book and be entertained.

I’m really loving the series so far. Ramses is annoying as a toddler, but he’s growing more tolerable as he ages.

Next one up for me is #6 – The Last Camel Died at Noon.

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Marg March 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I listened to one of these on audiobook, at least a couple of years ago, and totally agree re Barbara Rosenblat. Even now I can hear her Emerson in my head! She also narrates the Vicky Bliss series and was great in that too.

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Mindy Withrow April 2, 2009 at 9:55 am

I just left a comment on your recent Billy Collins post, and scrolling down the page, discovered this post on Amelia Peabody — and now I know that we are kindred readers! Until I added the Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear to my list, the Amelia Peabody books were the ONE mystery series of which I never miss an installment. I love the strong, smart, and snarky (in her Victorian way) protagonist; I think I’m also partial to the series since the first volume came out the year I was born! I reviewed The Serpent on the Crown, plus Amelia Peabody’s Egypt: A Compendium, a while back (http://mindywithrow.com/?p=157).

Thanks for your great overview of the series.

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Regina Rozsa October 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I just finished “Serpent on the Crown” and it occurred to me that we haven’t heard Sennia mentioned in the last couple of books, since the birth of the twins. Did they send her away to boarding school?

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Kim March 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm

I know!

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Kim March 24, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I’m looking forward to your post; if it’s a series most people will enjoy maybe I can find it somewhere!

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Kim March 25, 2009 at 10:25 am

Me too. Initially, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about since I don’t read much historical fiction now, but this was a lot of fun.

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Kim March 25, 2009 at 10:26 am

I loved old Britain too, kings and queens and wizards and all of that were fun. I liked that review a lot!

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Kim March 26, 2009 at 9:17 am

I loved finding your reviews while I wrote this post, they were fun to read! When you say “the next one,” which book do you mean?

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Kim March 28, 2009 at 11:25 am

I bet these would be good on audio book. I think I could listen to Sean Connery read the phone book, but I suppose for different reasons :)

Yes, Ramses is terribly annoying as a kid, but he turns into quite the charmer as an adult. The Last Camel Died at Noon is a great one, lots of good new characters and complications.

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Kim April 3, 2009 at 3:11 pm

That is Peabody exactly: “strong, smart, and snarky (in her Victorian way).” Thanks for the link, I’m looking forward to reading it.

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