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Publisher's Summary

“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 “little story”? Nothing less than the creation of the modern Middle East at the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, where Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence, and Lady Gertrude Bell met to decide the fate of the Arab world - and of our own.

A 40-year-old schoolteacher from Ohio, Agnes has come into a modest inheritance that allows her to take the trip of a lifetime to Egypt. Arriving at the Semiramis Hotel just as the Peace Conference convenes, Agnes enters into the company of the historic luminaries who will, in the space of a few days at a hotel in Cairo, invent the nations of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. 

As Agnes observes the tumultuous inner workings of nation-building, she is drawn more and more deeply into geopolitical intrigue and toward a personal awakening. With graceful and effortless prose, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East through a story that brilliantly elucidates today’s headlines. Dreamers of the Day is a memorable and passionate novel. 

©2008 Mary Doria Russell (P)2008 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"An instantly likable heroine whose unlikely adventures will keep readers hooked to the end." (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Dreamers of the Day

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

good historical novel

The author writes very well, and the narrartor Ann Marie Lee is one of my favorites. I learned a lot about World War I, primarily its aftermath and the Europeans dividing up the defeated Ottoman Empire, creating new countries, like Iraq, not knowing or caring enough about the people to do a decent job.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Little Big Woman

Meeting and interacting with world famous people worked very well until the end when in my view,it became contrived and spoiled what was a very good story.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good, but not great

After The Sparrow, the bar is too high for Mary Doria Russell. While the subject matter was interesting, it didn’t have the punch of her other books, so by comparison, this book wasn’t as good.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Bold Book by a Daring Author

This is my fourth book by Mary Doris Russell. I am in awe of this writer. I would not normally pick up a book with this premise but she gives such a novel take on an influential moment in history wrapped up in a voyage of self exploration that rings true. I do not know whether the narrator got the Cleveland accent perfectly but the accents she chose helped to draw her characters in vivid detail. This is a very special and thoughtful book that I strongly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting and Perplexing

I’m just now finished and my brain is piecing together what I heard. Initially, I thought the story was so amazingly relevant, recounting the 1917 flu. It gave me chills. As the story unfolded, it took surprising turns, moving between time planes and places through its heroine. More surprises, reality and speculations round out this historical look at a century ago, often through the eyes of our own time.

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    5 out of 5 stars

An utterly entrancing historical novel

I love Mary Doria Russell. I'm reading my way through her novels, and I think I've found a new favorite. Dreamers of the Day is largely set in a period that fascinates me, the post-WWI years that stretched from the Spanish flu pandemic through the Great Depression (both of which will feel familiar these days). The novel largely examines a particularly important time, the years when European interests, led by the likes of Winston Churchill and Gertrude Bell, carved up the Middle East in order to exploit its resources, and people like T.E. Lawrence valiantly opposed them. But what makes this novel great is that history is seen through the eyes of Agnes Shanklin, a charming American whose adventures in the Middle East will have you rooting for her every step of the way. The book is engrossing and surprising, and it will stay in your heart.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very interesting and cleverly written...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes! I would recommend since it brings history to life and takes you to the beginning era of twentieth century!!!

What did you like best about this story?

The history behind the story....

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Flaccid preachy writing

While it was a fun idea to set a novel in the Middle East with the real shapers of the political borders post WWI, I found this to be a very dull read. The narrator, both the reader and the first person storyteller, were wimpy, helpless women. I think the reader made this aspect worse. The author chose a few social characteristics of the historical characters to emphasize--they were not fleshed out like real people. The historical issues of the day were mostly set out like a lecture in a classroom, not well integrated into conversations. The history was interesting, but there are better books out there: try Desert Queen instead, about Gertrude Bell who was a fascinating woman.

1 person found this helpful