Julius Lester. Pharaoh’s Daughter. Silver Whistle. San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt, 2000. ix + 182 pp. $17.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-15-201826-9. Reviewed by Sue D’Auria (Associate Curator, Huntington Museum of Art) Published on H-AfrTeach (June, 2001)
Pharaoh’s Daughter Pharaoh’s Daughter
lationships are somewhat confusing, and may take some time for young readers to sort out. For instance, when Mosis mentions “mother,” is he referring to his Hebrew mother or to the princess?
It is rare, when reading stories of the biblical Exodus, to find the Egyptian point of view represented. Yet such is the case in this refreshing novel for ages 12 and up, an account of events leading up to the Exodus, focusing on the life of the fictional sister of Moses, Almah.
In order to complete his temple on schedule for his jubilee (30-year) celebration, Ramesses II forces all Hebrews to work on its construction, and bans Mosis from Written in the present tense, the story begins in the throne room, ostensibly so that his loyalty will not Goshen, the Habiru (Hebrew) settlement housing workbe questioned. This sets a chain of events into motion ers building the temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II at the with tragic results, ending with Moses’ sojurn in the land northern Egyptian capital, Pi-Ramesses. “Hebrew” is of Midian, and thus before the events of the Exodus. rendered “Habiru” to reflect the ancient usage. The au- Throughout, the author gives a nicely balanced view of thor has consistently attempted to use the ancient names both Egyptian and Hebrew religion. The calm, strong of places, peoples, and even the calendar, lending an au- faith of Almah’s Hebrew father offsets the religious zeal thentic air to the novel. Egyptian soldiers are carryof her mother. Ramesses II is seen as a sympathetic figing out an order to kill all Hebrew newborn boys when ure who won’t release the Hebrews because it would disAlmah encounters Pharaoh’s daughter, Meryetamun, in turb “maat,” the balance of order in the universe, whose the city, and escorts her back to the palace. When the sol- maintenance was the king’s primary responsibility. He diers return, and Almah’s brother Mosis (Moses) is placed explains that letting the Hebrews go would reward them in a basket among the rushes, Merytamun retrieves it, de- for defiance of the divine order. Almah is a strong feciding to raise the baby as her own, with Almah and her male character, committed to her faith, but unafraid to mother residing in the palace. Almah takes immediately confront Pharaoh about the injustices he is committing. to life as an Egyptian, becoming a priestess of the godThe research that the author mentions in his author’s desses Hathor and Eset (Isis). note is apparent throughout the book, from the use of Part II is told from the point of view of Mosis, who ancient terminology, to details about the architecture of is confused and discontented at his position straddling the palace, to the description of ancient Egyptian and rethe Hebrew and Egyptian worlds. While Almah has ded- ligious concepts, though there are a few minor inaccuraicated herself totally to the Egyptian religion, replacing cies. The Exodus is an event that is hotly debated among Merytamun in the affections of Pharaoh and actually takscholars, and some Egyptologists believe that the story ing her name, Merytamun has become a convert to the is based on events that took place not under Ramesses Hebrew faith, changing her name to Batya. These new re1
II, but at a much earlier period. Whatever the actual chronology, the author has succeeded in his aim of showing the human side of events leading to the Exodus in a very readable book that is sure to captivate young readers.
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If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: http://networks.h-net.org/h-afrteach Citation: Sue D’Auria. Review of Lester, Julius, Pharaoh’s Daughter. H-AfrTeach, H-Net Reviews. June, 2001. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=5197 Copyright © 2001 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at [email protected]