06 March 2014

Review: Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium edited by Elizabeth Peters and Kristen Whitbread

Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium edited by Elizabeth PetersAs you are well aware, I loved Elizabeth Peters's series about the dashing Radcliffe Emerson and his outspoken wife, Amelia Peabody. The books revolve around Emerson's world-famous archaeological work and, for the most part, take place in Egypt while the couple, their family, and friends are engaged in excavations.

Although often considered mysteries, the Emerson/Peabody books are so much more than that. I love the mix of humor, shady dealings, murders, politics, Egyptian culture, and archaeology. And best of all, Peters created a fantastic cast of characters, whom she allowed to grow and change over time.

After I finished the series, I wanted more, so I turned to Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium, edited by Elizabeth Peters and Kristen Whitbread. If you liked the mystery series, you need to have this book, but I suggest waiting until you finish the series before reading it, if you want to avoid spoilers.

  • What I love. The compendium keeps to the world of the novels, offering an insider's view to the Emersons' Egypt, archaeology, and more. We are given an overview of . . . well . . . everything, with the Emersons smoothly folded in. The skillful and clever blending of fact and fiction is, simply, a delight. The book is amply illustrated with hundreds of period engravings, drawings, and photographs, and there's even a photo of the young Amelia. I love the alphabetical lists of the characters, places, and vocabulary found in the novels.
  • Come on, give me some specifics. Peters and her co-authors, including her alter ego Barbara Mertz, write about all kinds of fascinating topics, such as Egyptian archaeology, politics, and culture; the British influence (good and bad); tourism, particularly as it relates to archaeology; religion; technology; the arts, including literature and music; the women's movement and fashion; and family life, such as servants, children, and education.
  • How do the Emersons fit in? For all these topics, the Emersons' roles and attitudes are part of the discussion. If you've read the books, then you already know about Emerson's and Peabody's differing views of the necessity of automobiles in Egypt, but do you know or remember their thoughts on the telephone and indoor plumbing? I loved the letters between Amelia and her dressmaker, especially concerning the remaking of her skirts into Turkish trousers. As you can imagine, the Emersons' thoughts on domestic help differed greatly from the British standard as did their views on child-rearing and education.
  • Other fun stuff. Entries from Emerson's journals revealing his first impressions of Amelia; good thing these pages were preserved. A diagram and photograph of a dahabiya, which is a type of houseboat and a beloved mode of transport for the family. A literary quiz based on the novels.
  • Recommendations. If you've read Elizabeth Peters's series, you must read her Amelia Peabody's Egypt: A Compendium. Do you need to own it? Of course you do. This is not the kind of book you'll sit down and read all the way through in one fell swoop. Instead, you'll turn to it off and on to read a section here and another one there. You'll look up a character (or a cat!) one day, you'll linger over the photographs the next, and another time you'll read about the Emersons' tastes in music. Hours of great reading and good fun.
Published by HarperCollins / William Morrow, 2003
ISBN-13: 9780060538118
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Rachel 3/6/14, 8:56 AM  

I have savored the Amelia Peabody series too. Thanks for letting me know about this book. It sounds like something to dip into again and again.

bermudaonion 3/6/14, 9:16 AM  

I probably need to start the Amelia Peabody books before I read this one.

Nan 3/6/14, 10:11 AM  

YES! I must read it, and I must own it. Now! Thanks a million for bringing my attention to the book. I love that series so much.

SuziQoregon 3/6/14, 10:13 AM  

Definitely planning to read this once I finish the series.

Kailana 3/6/14, 12:24 PM  

Nice! As I am still very early into the series it will be ages before I get to this, but I will make note of it!

Heidenkind 3/6/14, 10:45 PM  

My mom bought me this book awhile ago but I'm not sure I still have it. I only just started reading the Amelia Peabody series.

Becca 3/7/14, 2:13 AM  

My mom recommended these to me a while ago after I told her how much I loved Michelle Moran's novels set in Egypt. I have yet to try them, though. Another on the to-read list!

Daryl 3/7/14, 1:37 PM  

i know you loved them but for me they were too formulamatic

Mystica 3/7/14, 6:41 PM  

I found this one absolutely riveting.

Joy 3/8/14, 12:49 PM  

What fun! I've enjoyed the first few books in the series and need to get back to it.

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