Book Review: Rosetta by Barbara Ewing

rosettaRosetta by Barbara Ewing

As a child, Rosetta is fascinated by words and loves being told stories. She thinks she is named after the Princess Rosetta of the fairytales, who married the King of the Peacocks and lived happily ever after. But when she finds that it is a mysterious small port town in Egypt that gave her her name, her interest in hieroglyphics is born. Years later, when Rose is an older, wiser and sadder woman, it is her love of language that saves her life. The French Revolution; the rise of the power of the English church; the battles for Egypt between the British and the French; the discovery of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone in that same small port town – and above all the machinations of a rich, amoral, social-climbing member of the new’ aristocracy and the extraordinary characters that surround him – all whirlpool together to carry Rose into France and a shared moment with Napoleon Bonaparte, and into the dark, unknown world of North Africa in her search to understand the meaning of words, and to find a child of her own

I have mixed feelings about this book – the author seemed to want this book to be many things, but seemed to shy away from many of the different genres/topics. Implication of awakening sexuality within marriage, including the reference to lewd publications – check. No real exploration of physical love (apart from a moderately implied gay sex scene early on) – check. Attempt at Jane Austen level humour, including pompous clergymen fawning to the rich and famous – check.

This is not to say this is a *bad* book – at it’s heart it did have some good points: it highlights the fact that everything at the time was male dominated and women and children were still classed as the property of men, and women had no rights over the “ownership” of their children – if they walked out on the marriage for any reason, the man would retain “ownership” of the children no matter what the circumstances; political marriages were still necessary to ensure that the line and/or money continued no matter what, and that women were essentially the pawns of men…………

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