cover image Passage to Egypt: The Life of Lucie Duff Gordon

Passage to Egypt: The Life of Lucie Duff Gordon

Katherine Frank. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $27.5 (398pp) ISBN 978-0-395-54688-8

Frank ( A Chainless Soul: A Life of Emily Bronte ) here combines research skills with sympathetic writing to portray an unusual Victorian woman. Gordon (1821-1869) and her husband Alexander Duff Gordon were progressive thinkers who moved in London's literary circles, socializing with Thackeray and Dickens. Lucie Gordon was intelligent, outspoken and an accomplished French and German translator. But their mostly pleasant life came to an abrupt halt in 1862 when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and left her husband and three children to live in upper Egypt's dry climate in search of health. Drawing on Gordon's correspondence with her family (which was published in 1865 as Letters From Egypt ), Frank relates the dramatic transformation Gordon underwent as she immersed herself, despite illness, in Egyptian culture and shed some of her Victorian stiffness. She failed to regain her health, however, and died at age 48. She was buried in Cairo. (Aug.)