Dreamers of the Day

Dreamers of the Day

A Novel

Book - 2008
Average Rating:
Rate this:
I suppose I ought to warn you at the outset that my present circumstances are puzzling, even to me. Nevertheless, I am sure of this much: My little story has become your history. You won't really understand your times until you understand mine. So begins the account of Agnes Shanklin, the charmingly diffident narrator of Mary Doria Russell's compelling new novel, Dreamers of the Day. And what is Miss Shanklin's little story? Nothing less than the creation of the modern Middle East at the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, where Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence, and Lady Gertrude Bell met to decide the fate of the Arab world-and of our own. A forty-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio still reeling from the tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic, Agnes has come into a modest inheritance that allows her to take the trip of a lifetime to Egypt and the Holy Land. Arriving at the Semiramis Hotel just as the Peace Conference convenes, Agnes, with her plainspoken American opinions-and a small, noisy dachshund named Rosie-enters into the company of the historic luminaries who will, in the space of a few days at a hotel in Cairo, invent the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. Neither a pawn nor a participant at the conference, Agnes is ostensibly insignificant, and that makes her a welcome sounding board for Churchill, Lawrence, and Bell. It also makes her unexpectedly attractive to the charismatic German spy Karl Weilbacher. As Agnes observes the tumultuous inner workings of nation-building, she is drawn more and more deeply into geopolitical intrigue and toward a personal awakening. With prose as graceful and effortless as a seductive floatdown the Nile, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidates today's headlines. As enlightening as it is entertaining, Dreamers of the Day is a memorable, passionate, gorgeously written novel.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2008.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781400064717
Characteristics: 253 pages ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jul 12, 2014

Dreamers of the Day impressed me when I first read it as a new book.
The story line was interesting and moved along, but it was the historical implications that grabbed me.
Now that there is much discussion of the processes involved in setting up borders in the Middle East post WWI, (Cairo Peace talks) I remembered this book and would recommend it highly

Grace_Kalman Mar 05, 2012

This one was really hard to rate. So I separated it into catagories: Worldview (morality), Writing, Story, and characters.
Worldview-Awful (.5)
Writing-Excellent (5)
Story-Average (2.5)
Characters (each likable character gets a star)-Rosie and Lawrence, so 2.

One thing I appreciated--her ending.
Read to children.
Never buy anything from someone who is peddling fear.

Sep 15, 2011

Recently wealthy Agnes Shanklin travels to Egypt, just happening to arrive at the time of the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference post-WWI that sets in motion the Middle East and the conflicts we know today. Agnes is fictional but many of the people she comes to know are real people.

The engaging memoir-like qualities of late-bloomer Agnes's finding herself on a journey is simply enjoyable reading. And, you must love dogs! But, there are other messages being conveyed in Russell's book, those about nation building and meddling in a country's self determination that she renders well without getting too moralizing about it all!

Aug 31, 2010

Miss Agnes Shanklin is a spinster schoolteacher in rural Ohio, the plain Jane in her family who is loved but overlooked nonetheless. She?s spent her life quietly obeying her hard-working mother and living vicariously through her sister. But when the Great War and the Great Influenza take her family away from her, Agnes is forced into the spotlight. Leaving her grief behind, Agnes takes her modest inheritance and her cheery little dachshund, Rosie, to Egypt. It?s 1921 and the world is still recovering from all those years of trench warfare, but in Cairo a peace conference is underway. Luminaries like Winston Churchill, Gertrude Bell, and ?Lawrence of Arabia? are meeting to determine the fate of the Middle East. When Agnes wanders into their midst, her mild manner gives way to a sharp mind that serves as an ideal sounding board for their plans and ideas. Her attention is also drawn to Karl Weilbacher, an affable gentleman who showers Agnes with more kindness than she?s experienced in an entire lifetime. Karl is excessively interested in everything Agnes has to say?particularly when it relates to Churchill, Bell, Lawrence, and the plans of the European diplomats. Author Mary Doria Russell vividly portrays the real personalities who created the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, but it is Agnes, the fictional character who narrates this history, who readers will relate too. Inexperienced but by no means uninformed, Agnes navigates the waters of Egypt?s shifting political intrigues with a sense of wonder and wry intellect that is appealing and intimate.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at HPL

To Top