Saturday, April 5, 2008

Module 6 Historical Fiction: The Pharaoh's Daughter

The Pharaoh’s Daughter: A Novel of Ancient Egypt
Lester, Julius. 2000. The Pharaoh’s Daughter: A Novel of Ancient Egypt. New York: Silver Whistle.

“I know that being born something doesn’t mean that’s what you are” so states Almah in The Pharaoh’s Daughter: A Novel of Ancient Egypt. In this fictional account of Moses told by Newbery Award winning author Julius Lester, religion and Egyptian history intersect to reveal the story of the young prophet and his early struggles with self awareness, identity, and purpose. Lester takes great strides to separate the commercialized, modern view of Moses (think Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments) to one of his own unique creation. The basic story of Moses being spared from death and raised by the Pharaoh’s Daughter stays true, but Lester creates a fictional coming of age story of one of the greatest Old Testament icons and gives him a realism and humanity unmatched thus far. The moral conflicts that Moses, called Mosis in Lester’s version, his sister Almah, and Batya, the Pharaoh’s Daughter, must face are complex and difficult, to say the least. Mosis knows his life was spared because he is destined for a higher purpose. In keeping with the historical accounts of Moses being quiet and ‘thick tongued’, Lester keeps his dialog simple and succinct. Almah, on the other hand, is a complete creation of Lester’s imagination. A free spirit, independent, strong willed and probably the earliest feminist, Almah is her own person, reveling in her ritualistic sun worship, going against all her cultural teachings, bringing shame and dishonor to her family, but it is she who will save Mosis’ life, not once, but twice. The Biblical story of Moses’ sister is vague, to say the least, but Lester’s interpretation of her carries the story and adds juxtaposition and conflict to the narrative. Told from various viewpoints, first Almah’s then Mosis, and then Almah’s again gives the reader insight and adds dimension to the two most central characters. We feel the anguish and despair of these two first hand as they struggle with their choices, which they know will be against everything they have been raised to do. Through the Introduction, Author’s Note, Glossary and Bibliography readers will understand Lester’s inspiration, choices, and historical trivia that will add depth to the overall concept of the story. The Pharaoh’s Daughter is a fresh, exciting take on a very old tale and readers will come away with a new respect for the time period, inspired to learn more.

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