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Friday, 21 April 2017

Review: Whispers in the Sand, Barbara Erskine

"What you need, my dear, is a holiday." So says our protagonist's (Anna's), Aunt Phyllis, during Anna's visit following a recent divorce. Phyllis speaks of Anna's great-grandmother, Louisa Shelley, a renowned artist, and Anna becomes inspired to retrace Louisa's journey through Egypt. Armed with Louisa's diary and mysterious small glass bottle, Anna books herself onto a cruise.

As soon as she arrives on the cruise, it becomes apparent that two men (Andy and Toby) are competing for her affections - but is it her affections they desire, or her diary and bottle? Both seem eager to examine the two possessions, and Anna has to struggle to fight them off. Not only is it them she finds herself battling against, however, but it soon transpires that there are mysterious and malevolent presences around Anna. 

She confides in Serena, a woman who partakes in the mystical arts, most notably those of a modern-day Isis worship. She sensitively explains and explores what could be happening. 

The longer the journey goes on, the more intense these presences get - and they no longer affect Anna alone.

Interspersed with Anna's story is that of Louisa Shelley, whom we get to know through Anna reading the diary. Louisa was gifted the bottle by her dragoman, Hassan, whom had no idea of the apparent curse surrounding it. For the most part, it causes no trouble except for when an English nobleman tries to wrestle it off Louisa, which leads to tragedy. 

This was a very enjoyable read, with a a blend of historical narrative, exploration of ancient mysticism and spirituality, and gorgeous descriptions of Egypt's landscape. There was one bugbear, however, and that was the ending. It just stops without a final resolution. Erskine wrote an "Afterthought" in which case she deliberately wanted to leave the story there, but it left me feeling unsatisfied. I know books, once finished, become independent of their authors, but I wanted to know Erskine's ending, not imagining one of my own. 

I would recommend this book, but if you would feel frustrated at a non-ending, like me, it might be best to leave it as it's not the shortest of reads!

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