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Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister

Little Egypt

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I found this book utterly compelling. With a flavour of I Capture the Castle, a hint of Atonement and a dash of A Passage to India; the innocent voice of the teenage Isis - trapped in a rambling mansion with her Egypt-obsessed twin Osiris - interweaves with the wryly cynical tone of her ninety-year-old self. Lesley Glaister conjures up a marvellous sense of place contrasting the stultifying confinement of a 1920s childhood with the heat and tension of an abortive visit to the tombs of Egypt. A richly dark read with comic undertones and an acute eye for detail.

If you like Lesley Glaister you might also like to read books by Susan Hill, Sophie Hannah and Helen Fitzgerald.

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Little Egypt by Lesley Glaister

Salt Publishing are proud to present Little Egypt , the twelfth novel by the immensely talented Lesley Glaister. Winner of the Somerset Maugham, Betty Trask and Yorkshire Post Author of the Year prizes, Glaister's work has also been on numerous literary award short and longlists over the years, and several of her dramas have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Little Egypt is a once well-to-do country house. Now derelict and trapped on a small island of land between a railway, a dual carriageway and a superstore, it looks deserted … but it isn't. Nonagenarian twins, Isis and Osiris, now in their nineties, still live in Little Egypt, the home they were born in. For their long lives they have always remained here, guarding a terrible secret. Back in the 1920s, Isis and Osiris lived in Little Egypt with their obsessive Egyptologist parents, Evelyn and Arthur, this apparently idyllic sprawl of a dwelling hiding the secrets of a dysfunctional family life. When Evelyn and Arthur leave home to search for the fabled tomb of Herihor, the twins are left with housekeeper Mary to wonder when their reckless, self-centred parents will return. Isis is lonely and anxious about her twin, Osiris who, desperate to impress his parents, has developed a similar passion for all things Egyptian, and is convinced they will return successful from their quest -- rich and famous. And then there's Uncle Victor, returned from the war in a state of hyper-sensitivity, invading their lives with his perplexing moods and erratic affections. Without really considering the consequences, Victor, Isis and Osiris set off for Egypt to search for Evelyn and Arthur, setting in motion a chain of events which will dramatically change all of their lives forever. Now, in 2002, living in a state of destitution, the elderly twins' lives seem to be drawing to a lost and miserable close -- until a chance meeting between Isis and young American anarchist Spike, sparks an unlikely friendship and proves a catalyst for change. Looping between the 1920s and the present day, Little Egypt is a beautifully-observed novel about the loss of innocence, parental neglect and the eternal human quest to 'belong'. By turns poignantly humorous, deeply moving and mysterious, it also evokes the wonder and majesty of Howard Carter's Egypt on the cusp of Western discovery. This enormously accomplished novel took twenty years to come to fruition: it is well worth the wait.


Lesley Glaister's writing is delightful; she has some superb turns of phrases and despite the subject matter this is not a book without humour. The characters are beautifully drawn (though the strange Osi remains in the background as something of a mystery), and the `crime
committed is certainly not one I

've come across before. Highly recommended. * Book Muse * Beautifully written and with fully rounded characters there is much humour alongside the poignancy of the unfolding tale. I loved the idea that this old lady, born to privilege, should derive pleasure from all she is able to see of modern life, this superstore, and dream of selling up and moving on. With so much emphasis these days on preservation it is refreshing to consider change as good. The old days and ways recounted here offer little to remember of past times which should ever be considered fondly. * Neverimitate * Little Egypt is a highly original and atmospheric novel. * A Little Blog of Books * ? ? ? ? ?

A quirky, quintessentially British story about two unfortunate offspring of batty amateur Egyptologist parents and the senior citizens those children become. This deftly written, heady mixture of poignancy and eccentricity is just the thing if you fancy a change from literacy humdrum. -- Ani Johnson * The Bookbag * Switching between the twins'
1920s childhood and their present day decay until the horror of their existence becomes all too clear, Little Egypt perfectly demonstrates why Glaister is the suspense writers

suspense writer. With Little Egypt, she is back on Honour Thy Father form. I still have that slow, sick, ache in the pit of my stomach to prove it
. -- Sam Baker * Harper's Bazaar * Glaister is very good at creating an atmosphere of rank gloom, and her alternating structure gives her rich opportunities for dramatic tension, which she exploits brilliantly. She slowly ramps up the grotesqueries with just the right amount of dark and light: a gleam of macabre humour leavens the misery, while there is always empathy for Isis, doomed to suffer a horrible life to protect her disturbed and disturbing twin. -- Jane Housham * The Guardian * Glaister's greatest success in Little Egypt is in her pacing and her use of language to obscure change; through effortless and consistently engaging prose, Isis's transformation, the degradation of the house, the growing panic over her parents

prolonged absence, and the book
's more sinister themes, all emerge discreetly. -- Claire Kohda Hazelton * TLS * Eerily atmospheric Little Egypt, made me shudder; certain passages were read through half-closed eyes, the way you watch grisly scenes in a film - desperate to know what happens, but not wanting to disturbing images imprinted on your mind. -- Rosemary Goring * The Herald *

About the Author

Lesley Glaister

Lesley Glaister is the prize-winning author of twelve novels, most recently, Chosen. Her stories have been anthologised and broadcast on Radio 4. She has written drama for radio and stage. Lesley is a Fellow of the RSL, teaches creative writing at the University of St Andrews and lives in Edinburgh.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th March 2014


Lesley Glaister

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Salt Publishing


320 pages


Family Drama
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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