Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

The Twice Born by Pauline Gedge

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 1465
Joined: August 2008
Location: On the Banks of the Hudson

The Twice Born by Pauline Gedge

Post by Telynor » Mon September 29th, 2008, 4:02 am

One author that I continually look out for is Pauline Gedge. A long time writer who sets her works in the time of the Pharoahs, I've been stuck on her work since her first novel, Child of the Morning. While they may not always be historically accurate in all of the tiny details, what Gedge manages to do is create a superb sense of time and place, along with vivid characters drawn from the tales and history of Egypt.

And this time, with The Twice Born, Gedge takes on one of the most mysterious and compelling people who really did live in Egypt.

When the story opens, Huy, son of Hapu, is just four years old, and it is his Naming Day. Son of a farmer, he doesn't quite understand why he has to give up a favourite toy to the shrine of the local god, but he must. He's more familiar with the lazy days spent watching the creatures in the garden or playing with his best friend, Ishat, the daughter of a servant. Worst still, his uncle is planning on sending him far away to a temple school where Huy will learn to become a scribe, where he will have a much better chance at a prosperous future. Huy doesn't want to go.

But the temple at Iunoe becomes a much more enticing place than Huy thinks. He makes a friend with another boy, Thothmes, the son of the local governor, and he falls happily into the world of literacy. But he also makes enemies, including a swaggering braggart who looks down on Huy and his peasant origins. After eight years in the temple school, Huy is struck down in a boyish prank gone wrong, and he wakes in a strange place.

That strange place is the House of the Dead, where he has lain for five days, preparing for his body to be beautified and buried. Huy's reawakening to the land of the living portends something even more terrifying, visions that can change the future, and even worse, predict the deaths of those that he loves...

I have to say, despite a slow start, this was a novel that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. Gedge's hold on the daily lives of the Egyptians, and this time, of the lives of ordinary people, is still as sure as ever, and I could easily imagine myself in their halls and temples. What truly works are the characterizations, from Huy to his friends, Thothmes and Ishat, and the various priests, Methen, Ramose, and the others. Unlike her other novels, this time the glimpses of royalty are very few, and when the current Pharaoh makes a very brief appearance, the reactions are very believable.

The most unusual aspect here however, is Gedge's use of mythology and the religious writings. The gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt are very real in this story, with the actual power to influence the lives of mortals, and Huy must make some very interesting choices with his life. All of the scenes are very vivid and fit nicely into Egyptian cosmology. One thing that I really liked was that it was always free choice that determines the choices of everyone in the story -- they always had the right to do as they saw fit, and let the consequences fall where they may. This is unusual where most stories that use non-Western, Christian visions of gods, where an 'it is fated' prevails. All in all, it works, and gives the story some real impact.

Gedge provides a brief author's note at the start, discussing the Book of Thoth, that plays such a vital part in the story, and her own thoughts. As to the rest of her research, it is very solid, and the conficts and choices that Huy faces are very believable and very well written.

For those who like their historical dramas to be well written and full of both action and internal visions, this is very enjoyable. Fans of Pauline Gedge's previous novels will not be disappointed. While there isn't a mention of a follow-up novel, I suspect that there will be a sequel as the ending is a bit of a cliff-hanger.

The edition that I purchased is a Canadian one, in trade paperback, and it does require a bit of a search to find. However, the hunt is worth it. I do not know when an US edition will be published, but I will post an update when it is available.

Four stars overall.

The Twice-Born
Pauline Gedge
2007; Penguin Canada
ISBN 0-14-305291-8

Post Reply

Return to “By Author's Last Name G-L”