As readers of this blog probably know, my new novel The Sacred River came out last week. We had the launch party a few days after publication day, at the Petrie Museum, in London.
The Petrie is one of the foremost Egyptology museums in the world, with an estimated 80,000 objects. It’s full of character – housed in an old stable block just off Gower Street in central London and part of London University. I was honoured to be able to launch the book there.
The museum is named after the great archaeologist Flinders Petrie, who was born in 1853 and worked extensively in Egypt and Nubia. He was a methodical and careful archaeologist who made many important finds and would have been working in Egypt at the same time as two characters from the novel – Harriet Heron and Eberhardt Woolfe – were excavating a fictional tomb in the Valley of the Queens.
Flinders does not appear in The Sacred River, but I like to think that he might have made the acquaintance of Harriet and Eberhardt later on, after the story ends. Like Harriet, he had no formal education. And like Eberhardt, he had a respect for the finds, be they great or small, that was unusual in its day.
The Sacred River is set in 1882, at the time of an earlier nationalist uprising in Egypt. I’d planned the novel before the beginning of the ongoing Arab spring, and feel there are parallels between the mood of the people in the late 19th century – under harsh Ottoman rule, and the upsurge in the last couple of years of popular discontent.
While the museum celebrates Egypt’s magnificent past, everyone who cares about the country and its people must be hoping that they will succeed in their struggle to make a better present now.
The Petrie is open to visitors Tuesday to Saturday, in the afternoons, with free admission. More info about the collection on their site