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Dreamers of the Day

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  4,387 Ratings  ·  988 Reviews
""I suppose I ought to warn you at the outset that my present circumstances are puzzling, even to me. Nevertheless, I am sure of this much: My little story has become your history. You won't really understand your times until you understand mine."" So begins the account of Agnes Shanklin, the charmingly diffident narrator of Dreamers of the Day. And what is Miss Shanklin's ...more
Hardcover, 253 pages
Published March 11th 2008 by Random House (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in the affairs of the Middle East and the Cairo Peace Conference
Shelves: 2008
Dreamers of the Day is a historical novel set mostly in Egypt during the Cairo Peace Conference of 1921. Agnes Shanklin is a forty-year-old, unmarried, Ohio schoolteacher who has lived through the Great War (WWI) and the Great Influenza of 1919. Having lost her family and inherited a great fortune, Agnes determines to take a trip to Egypt and the Holy Land. She arrives in Cairo with only her long haired dachshund as company. Very soon after arriving, Agnes meets and falls into the company of T.E ...more
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
What a disappointment. Both The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell are wonderful, heartrending books that have fully developed, believable characters. Both deal with serious issues of belief and faith. Both left me thinking.

This book, however, was sorely disappointing. The narrator wasn't terribly interesting and I felt at times like I was reading a history book (which is not a good sign since I do NOT enjoy non-fiction). I did learn a lot about how the events following WWI have
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Christi by: Angela (who lent me an advance copy)
I'm in the middle of this novel about a young woman who has lost her entire family to WWI and the Great Influenza. She travels to Eygpt, where she meets Lawrence (of Arabia) and the gentleman German spy who follows him. So far, it's been a little quote heavy, but I like Agnes, and her struggle to become an independent woman, free from the binds that still tie her to the tyranny of her late mother, is interesting.

I have to say that this book, by one of my favorite authors (see review of The Sparr
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was actually surprised that I enjoyed this one as much as I did. It was a cheap impulse buy I picked up while browsing in a used bookstore, and when I did finally look it up on Goodreads nothing wowed me. I'm also a little wary about historical fiction books which boast characters based on "real" people, so if not for the setting (post World War I Egypt) I would probably have never picked it up.

But it was actually really engaging and a lot of fun to read, and even when it got weird (the whole
Dec 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I loved "The Sparrow" and "Children of God" but could not get even halfway through "Thread of Grace." I read this book on a single long, snowy evening and enjoyed it throughout.

The narrator is an engaging character, and I liked the way that Russell wove her story with that of the conference. Her decision to make the narrator aware that she is speaking with people in the current time makes it possible for her to highlight differences between her time and o
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jim by: Sojourners Magazine
Set in the 1920s at the end of the first World War, this book follows the surprising adventures of its heroine on her trip to visit Egypt.

There she encounters various movers and shakers, such as Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia, in the midst of forming the history and geography of the modern middle east.

While dealing with those times, this book has great relevance to our own times, as we face today's issues and the legacy of those decisions that were made so many decades ago.

What makes
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great read! Especially since I had just finished reading "Lawrence in Arabia", a current well-researched documentary of that period in the Middle East. This book read like a comfortable entertaining tale of a young English woman in the early 1900's - her (sometimes implausible) adventures led her to Egypt and personal interactions with T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, and Gertrude Bell. Brought my historical facts to real life and fleshed out missing pieces of the real-life characters listed ab ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mary Doria Russell began her writing career with two well-received science fiction novels, The Sparrow and Children of God, both about people making contact with extraterrestrials. Lately, though, she's turned to 20th-century history for examples of first encounters fraught with unintended consequences -- an acknowledgment, perhaps, that plenty of otherworldly events take place right here on earth. The Thread of Grace was an enthralling novel about Jewish refugees fighting to survive in Northern ...more
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it

In Dreamers of the Day Mary Doria Russell gives us the story of Agnes Shanklin, observer and unlikely participant in the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference which saw the modern Middle East take shape. If it is possible to pinpoint a moment in time from which to explain the conflicts now raging in the Middle East, it is this one. And if ever you need evidence that Russell is a master story teller, consider this: the narrative traces the threads of conflict in the region today to decisions made at the 19

Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful novel, though I'm going to have a hard time evaluating it rationally, which I will explain in a moment.

It is the story of a 40-year-old schoolteacher who never married and has just lost all of her family to the great influenza. The novel follows her as she travels to Egypt during the Cairo Peace Conferences and meets some of the most famous people of her day, including Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence ("of Arabia"), and Lady Bell Gertrude. She blossoms and finds her own inde
Jul 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Robinson
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A warm and charming travelogue of a close-to-40 woman from Ohio who books a trip to Egypt. The timing of this solo adventure undertaken by Agnes Shanklin and her dachshund Rosie is the volatile ground the novel sets its stage. After WWI, and Wilson's failed attempt to make a lasting peace, and the 1918 influenza pandemic, and the Cairo conference of 1921 where the European powers divided the Middle East into the most convenient mishmash for their agenda; a shuffling of the board that resonates t ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Debbie, Tori, Rose, Jon, Lindsay
Recommended to Valerie by: favorite author
I am a huge fan of Mary Doria Russell, and her themes of the intersections of disparate groups of people. This novel is timely as it refers to a historical period when change could have gone many directions in the Middle East, and the ramifications of that time in history. She says her next book is about the Old West. Another thing I love about her is that everything is unique, no ruts here. I would have given this five stars but I was a little mystified by the ending, which seemed a bit rushed.
Jul 14, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: historical
I live in hope of the day MDR writes sf again. Till that time, I shall seek solace in the pages of her excellent historical fiction.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“To be enjoyed, life must be shared.”

Historical fiction at its best: opens a past as can only be done by fiction; while connecting to the reader’s present in ways that are both entertaining and informative. Neatly melds modern opinion with history. Compare this with James Michener’s Caravans, telling in 1963 how the world was going to lose Afghanistan.

“America, I recalled, were notorious colonial troublemakers.” “As the Arabs promise to be,” Lawrence said quietly.

All of the narrowness and preju
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So good. Makes me want to watch David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia", which I was forced to watch en masse in a huge auditorium with my whole grade, back in junior high, and I thought was a total bore, and remember almost nothing of, save a dramatic desert scene, and the much more recent "Queen of the Desert", with Nicole Kidman, which got not-so-great reviews, but I'd like to see the story of Gertrude Bell, now.

Except, David Lean was kind of a jerk, wasn't he.


But I bet I'd appreciate Col Lawre
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it

The title is taken from a quotation by T.E. Lawrence (remembered today as Lawrence of Arabia), which states:

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night wake in the day to find that it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

One reason I really enjoy Mary Doria Russell's writing is that it tends to sneak up on you -- meaning that the more you think about it, the more you realize exactly what she's
Dec 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is the story of Agnes Shanklin, a middle-aged woman from Ohio who has been under the thumb of her mother her entire life. Then, in 1919, the influenza epidemic takes the lives of her entire family and she suddenly finds herself the heiress of a sizable chunk of change and free from any obligations. She decides to take a trip to Egypt, and in 1921 finds herself mixed up in the periphery of the Cairo Peace Convention.

Mary Doria Russell, the author of one of my favorite novels, "The Sparrow,"
Genia Lukin
It saddens me beyond measure to give a Russell book two stars.

It saddens me, because normally, Russell is an author of superb ability and almost sublime quality, whose books I can read, reread, reread again, and then randomly reread till they're quite worn out. She is that author which I shove copies of into the hands of friends, acquaintances, random classmates, teachers, people in line in the store... What have you. Display the remotest shred of interest in borrowing a book from me and, chance
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I had put off reading this book because reviews generally said that it is not as good as her other books. I should have known better. Russell's worst writing blows most other writers out of the water and I’m not even sure that I agree that it is her least enjoyable book. This story is a bit more meandering than her other novels, which might throw readers off. However, two things made it well worth my while to read.
1. The history in this book covers events that I knew very little about - the 192
So far, this is my least favorite of Mary Doria Russell's books, which is to say that I liked it, but it's no Jesuits-in-space. One of Russell's unique strengths, particularly in sci-fi/fantasy, is how deeply she is able to develop her characters without sacrificing the progression of the plot, and this book may be her triumph in that regard, if for no other reason than that the main character/narrator, Agnes Shanklin, is so fully realized that everything else pales in comparison. At some points ...more
Kristy Miller
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Miss Agnes Shanklin never thought she would have an adventure. The oldest, and plainest of three children, she expected to teach school and take care of her judgmental mother for the rest of her life. World War I and the Great Influenza Pandemic change the course of her life, and she finds herself in Egypt in 1921. Agnes finds herself dining, drinking, and seeing the sights with Winston Churchill, Gertrude bell, and T.E. Laurence (also known as Laurence of Arabia). She also strikes up a friendsh ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fun historical fiction excursion into the life of a Cleveland spinster, Agnes Shanklin, who gets to hobnob with T.E. Lawrence and Churchill at a post World War 1 summit in Cairo. The premise is that the 40-year old schoolteacher, after loss of much of her family to the influenza epidemic, chooses to use her inheritance to visit the Mideast, where her beloved sister had gone for missionary work. Her entre into the circle of negotiators carving up the region into precarious protectorates is due ...more
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was the second time reading this novel. It was a selection for my library book club. It was just as good the second time so it will stay on my favorites list. I just love Russell's writing. She has a knack for putting you in a time and place that is not your own. One thing I noticed toward the end of the book were some recommendations from the main character: 1) read to children, 2) vote and 3) never buy anything from a man who's selling fear (p. 249). Hmmm.....I think that is very good adv ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A dazzling book about a 40 yr old "spinster" from Ohio, who loses her entire family to the influenza epidemic of 1918. After her tragic loss she travels to Egypt and beyond and rubs shoulders with the world leaders of the day (T. E. Lawerence, Gertrude Bell, Wintson Churchill). A mini-history course on how those decision makers affected the future of the middle east and our current predicament. I loved it.
Nov 09, 2013 rated it liked it
A bit boring, but it increased my interest in Lawrence of Arabia....
Jan 19, 2009 is currently reading it
I'm captivated so far, after the first 80 pages.
Ray Zimmerman
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dreamers of the Day
Mary Dora Russel
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman

She survived the great influenza epidemic that killed more people than World War One, only to discover that her entire family had died. She alone remained to settle the estates of several deceased relatives. From this inauspicious beginning came the life changing adventure of the book’s heroine, Agnes Shanklin.

Suddenly independent of her life as a school teacher, she bought new clothes which her mother would have regarded as frivolous,
Regina Lindsey
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
“Or simply look at a globe, and weep. Despite it all, there was still a chance for peace, even then, in some few places. If no single person could make things right after the Great Way, young Neddy Lawrence still hoped to make them less wrong in one corner of the world. The rest of my story is a small part of his, and a large part of yours, I’m afraid.”

Speaking from the grave, Agnes Shanklin, relates the events of her life beginning with WWI though the Great Depression. Agnes, who has grown up
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2017 Reading Chal...: Dreamers of the Day 1 14 Jun 15, 2016 07:21AM  
Around the Year i...: Dreamers of the Day, by Mary Doria Russell 1 17 Dec 19, 2015 12:55PM  
Cairo Peace Treaty 4 48 Feb 07, 2009 02:23PM  
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Mary Doria Russell is an American author. She was born in 1950 in the suburbs of Chicago. Her parents were both in the military; her father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant, and her mother was a Navy nurse.

She holds a Ph.D. in Paleoanthropology from the University of Michigan, and has also studied cultural anthropology at the University of Illinois, and social anthropology at Northeastern Univer
More about Mary Doria Russell...
“When it comes down to it, I don't have much in the way of advice to offer you, but here it is: Read to children. Vote. And never buy anything from a man who's selling fear.” 29 likes
“The dachshund is a perfectly engineered dog. It is precisely long enough for a single standard stroke of the back, but you aren't paying for any superfluous leg.” 9 likes
More quotes…