Lady Evelyn Herbert is the daughter of the earl of Carnarvon who finances Howard Carter’s expedition to find the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt. Eve who wants to become a lady archeologist herself can’t believe her eyes when she’s one of the first people to enter the burial chamber. But after the unique discovery, things start to go wrong with the people she loves and there’s talk of an ancient curse. Decades later, Eve is struggling with the aftermath of another stroke when Ana Mansour starts asking questions about missing artefacts from the tomb. Only Eve can still tell the tale, or will she take her secrets with her to the grave?
Gill Paul is an author I’ve meant to read a long time ago. She often writes a two perspective novel with one the characters being from royal blood. Her newest novel ‘The collector’s daughter‘ is different in that regard. There’s only one female perspective, although we meet her at two certain points in her life, and she has noble but no royal ancestors.
The discovery of Tutankhamun has always fascinated me so I did know who Evelyn Herbert was. The book opens with Eve waking up in the hospital after a stroke with her loyal husband Brograve Beauchamp besides her. We learn that Eve has had a car accident some time ago since when she suffers from strokes that sometimes take away her speech, but also parts of her memories. This time she does recall the distant past as if it was yesterday and her mind takes her back to the 1920’s in Egypt and the balls in Engeland where she met Brograve after WOI.
Highclere castle, the real Downton Abbey, also features in the story. We meet Eve’s complex family from the earl who dotes on his daughter, her lively but spendthrift mother Almina and her brother Porchy, the future earl of Carnarvon.
I did enjoy this novel, but it’s a light read. There’s a heavy focus on Eve’s health and her revalidation, leaving not enough space in my opinion for the historical perspective. I loved traveling back to Egypt, but the storyline became a bit shallow at times. I didn’t like Eve referring to her father as ‘Pups’ all the time. I also didn’t think the character of Ana really contributed to the story. We never get to know her or her motives. The focus is on Eve and her relationship with Brograve. And there’s talk of a curse to spice things up.
Paul has written an extensive historical note. A lot of research has gone into this book with utter respect for the real people behind the characters. As it’s a book about 20th century people with living descendants, I can really appreciate that.
I’ll certainly pick up one of Paul’s earlier books now, and I want to read more historicals novels about Egypt (any recommendations?). But I don’t know if this will be a story I still remember in, let’s say, two years from now.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.
Have you read anything by Gill Paul? Any recommendations on the history of (ancient) Egypt?