THE TWELVE ROOMS OF THE NILE, by Enid Shomer
Egypt, 1850. Intrepid Florence Nightingale meets Gustave Flaubert on a dusty road by the side of the Nile. Their intense and unexpected friendship, imagined by author Shomer, builds as they and their respective parties travel to Abu Simbel, Luxor and then – only Flaubert with his friend and Nightingale with her reluctant maid - across the desert to the Red Sea. Flaubert, a profligate sensualist whose sexual antics could only be called gritty, and the innocent Nightingale, a passionate seeker of a purpose for her highly-restricted life, forge a bond which fascinates and obsesses both of them. Although there is no evidence these two legendary figures ever actually met (they were in Egypt at the same time), Shomer does a fine job of making it look completely believable. Beautifully written, very suitable for a book group. A 5.