What We Thought: It’s always a pleasure to find a novel with a truly original concept; the premise of Little Egypt is, as far as I am aware, unique.
Isis and Osiris are twins growing up in their absent Egyptologist parent’s grand house, the Little Egypt of the title. As their parents spend most of their time in the real Egypt searching for a lost tomb, Isis and Osi are looked after by the housekeeper Mary and their Uncle Victor, a hero of the first world war. The care they receive from the love-spurned Mary and the damaged Victor with his night terrors, is hit and miss at best.
A trip to Egypt to visit their parents ends (and indeed starts) in chaos. The fabled tomb is never found and the parents are months late in showing up to see their children. After a disturbing incident she cannot quite recall, Isis returns home with her uncle and brother, not having made the emotional connection with her parents she desired. As she struggles with her burgeoning womanhood and Osi grows ever more odd and withdrawn, the house and their lives, slowly fall apart around them.
The book is set partly in the late 1920s and partly in the early 2000s when Isis and Osi are old. In the more contemporary part Isis, now calling herself Sisi, makes friends with a young American, Spike. Together they raid the bins of the supermarket that constantly pressures Sisi to sell the decaying Little Egypt to make way for an even grander superstore. But there is a secret hidden in the grounds which may be revealed if the superstore is built.
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.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Coming of age novels with a difference, feisty old women.
Avoid if you dislike: Gothic horror and child neglect.
Ideal accompaniments: A Bacardi Breezer and a ready meal fished out of a supermarket bin.
Genre: Literary fiction, Contemporary fiction.