Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rootless Lit: Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels

"Rootless lit" - Literature that speaks to travel, migration, displacement, exploration, discovery, transience, divesting of stuff, or portability. 

Credit: Amazon

Setting aside the story of the sisters for the moment, I loved how much I learned about things I didn't know existed before.

For example, I had no idea there was an ancient (and still active) Christian monastery in Egypt - St. Catherine's. Or that such a place had, since its inception, been the repository of historic manuscripts ... wow.

Or how about the existence of Jewish "genizah," a sort of cosmic recycling bin for sacred texts? Wow again.

Or palimpsests? Fascinating.

On the sisters Agnes and Margaret as people, I like the author's affectionate, but not blind, treatment of them; she includes their human frailties along with the glamorous stuff.

Ms. Soskice did a splendid job of describing the dog-eat-dog world of scholarly competition. And she did so without villainizing any of the players in the sisters' world.

Yet another layer of the story bespoke of women's power (or lack thereof) in England and Scotland during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Ms. Soskice is a good storyteller.

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