Temple in the Sand: The Memoirs of a Pharaoh - Book Review

Temple in the Sand: The Memoirs of a Pharaoh

Author: Marjorie Vernelle
Genre: Fiction - Cultural
Date Published: September 29, 2023
ISBN-10: N/A
ISBN-13: 9798887638799

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Book Review of :  Temple in the Sand: The Memoirs of a Pharaoh


Ancient Egyptian history is fascinating and frustrating. Little except exotic, painted relief tomb carvings, cartouche symbols,  and exotic temples permit a peak at this captivating culture. Author Majorie Varnelle has presented the period of three thousand years BC, the time of Egyptian pharaohs and mystery, in a break-away genre. "Temple in the Sand. The Memoirs of a Pharaoh"  is a historical fiction based on an encrypted message found by archaeologists in the Temple at Abydos built by Pharaoh Seti 1 in Egypt’s 19th dynasty.

Reachers' interpretation of the encrypted message hidden in the inscriptions on the temple walls was that the Pharaoh Seti (also known by other names) hid his personal diary somewhere in the tomb. He is believed to have recorded his interpretation of the day-to-day events during the last year of his life. The author, assuming that she is transliterating the illusive diary into English, presents the novel as his memoir. Varnelle's innovative approach to showcasing historical events is a captivating and intriguing way to keep readers flipping pages and learning about the past.

The novel is set in Ancient Egypt around 1290-1279 BCE. King Seti's daily entries are prefixed with ancient calendar dates.  The fictional stories are based on the author's in-depth research into the life and culture of the time. Her study of the piety, power, and personal lives of Ancient Egyptians enabled her to tell a story that presents a wicked Great Royal Wife, a treacherous son, and the expected demands placed on a pharaoh.

The difficulties of understanding ancient customs are offset by the slightly different memories that King Seti has of events and his contemplation of the power of the gods. The politics of being pharaoh are Intensified as he is considered a ruler, a living god, and an incarnation of the son of the god Osiris. Facing his death, he builds a tomb for himself and the Temple at Abydos to please the gods. The walls of his architectural creations are covered with gods' magic, myths and legends, and the stories of the triumph of the pharaoh. The artwork on the walls is in traditional high relief with applied color. The all-seeing eyes of the figures face forward, looking mortality in the face. The Wadjet eye depicts a falcon eye and a human eye, is a symbol of protection, and is distinctive in Egyptian art.

This reviewer had only a passing interest in Egyptian history before becoming enthralled by Temple in the Sand.  Questions raised by the novel compelled the reviewer to make Google searches and learn more about this captivating culture.

Reviewed by: Carol W

About Marjorie Vernelle


I have been a museum lover since I was nine years old. Wherever I have lived (California, Washington, Colorado, Mexico, Toronto, or Paris, Antibes, and Avignon in France), I have been involved in the arts, its beauty and its history. It all got started with the ancient Egyptian collection that was in the Joslyn Museum when I was a child in Omaha. Therefore, it is not odd that my latest work is a novel set in the time of Ancient Egypt's 19th Dynasty. The Great Temple of Abydos, built by Pharaoh Seti I drew my attention because of its wonderful raised relief art and its mysterious interior of columns. In researching it, I was drawn to find out more about the pharaoh who built it. He created a unique national monument where his people could pay tribute to any of the main gods of Egypt as they made their pilgrimage to the sacred soil of Osiris. It is written in that temple that the king hid a personal diary there in a treasury. So far, neither the diary nor the treasury have been found. Temple in the Sand, the Memoirs of a Pharaoh is a fictional creation of that diary and a look at the man who was a great warrior, great builder, a great leader, and a person with a fine sense of aesthetics. He is the true founder of the 19th Dynasty, the wonders of which are being explored through studies of the art in his temple and in his magnificent tomb.


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