The Sacred River by Wendy Wallace
Published August 1 2013 Simon & Schuster
I was so excited to receive an ARC of The Sacred River. I adored The Painted Bridge and was keen to read more of Wendy's work.
The press release accompanying the book notes that it is "...akin to that of E.M. Forster..." which is completely accurate. I adore this wonderful novel and hope you will too.
Set in Victorian London, and later Egypt, it tells the tale of Harriet Heron. Sickly all her life (we later discover she has asthma), both she and her Mother are resigned to her premature death. With the aid of her doctor, Harriet is given her last wish - to see Egypt, a place and history that has fascinated her. It is hoped the air will improve her condition, and so, with the Mother and Aunt, she travels to Alexandria.
I cannot do justice to the evocative, stirring descriptions Wendy has created of Egypt. The light, the life there is so deliciously recreated on the page; it is mesmerising. Harriet herself is a wonderful character; so unsure yet determined. Her Mother, Louisa, holds a secret that would shatter the family if discovered and Aunt Yael is so keen to help, to find her purpose in life. I found Yael's story the saddest part of the novel.
The Painted Bridge is such a strong novel, due to the characters. The injustice suffered, the hopelessness - I really felt connected to the novel. In The Sacred River, I experienced that strong connection again only this time it was to the lyrical descriptive beauty of Egypt and her people. Author Wendy Wallace is superb.