Almost immediately, like after the very first sentence, I was quite enamored with the whole thing. The tone, the characters, the setting, the banter. Amelia is SO SASSY. She’s an example of one of my favorite character types: a person who can afford to disregard the limitations put on her because of some sort of exception or power. It’s delicious, really, watching her come into her own.
So basically Amelia Peabody is a “spinster”* in the late 1800s England. Her father has just died and because she spent her life taking care of him, he’s left her his entire fortune (excluding her brothers). Amelia considers herself quite plain and unappealing, and has resigned herself to being a spinster for the remainder of her days. But now that she has this money, she’s going to make the most of it. A lifelong scholar, she decides to indulge her passion for Egyptology and spend a few months traveling the Nile. She engages a traveling companion and sets out. Of course, the companion she’s chosen comes with some baggage, and adventure and mystery ensue, involving mummies, archaeology, and great burly Englishmen with righteous beards.
*If Amelia Peabody is a spinster at 28 years old, I hate everything. Which reminds me of a theory I developed while reading this book. It’s called Chekhov’s Spinster. It’s like Chekhov’s Gun but with ladies who feel bad about the institution of marriage: You show me a spinster in act one, she will no longer be a spinster by the end of the story.
What I loved most about this was the subtleties Peters works in there. Little commentaries about colonialism and classism and sexism. And as previously mentioned, Amelia often flouts feminine convention because: a) She’s not worried about her reputation or landing a man, and b) she’s not worried about those things because she has her own income. Suddenly she’s dressing in trousers and saying inappropriate things and nobody can do anything about it at all.
And oh! The banter. Such good banter in this book. I laughed out loud while reading it, and several times dissolved into fits of manic giggling because I was so tickled about what was going on. Example:
“You are the one who loves this life,” Evelyn said, watching me curiously. “What an archaeologist you would make, Amelia!”
“Hmmm,” I said. “That is true. It is most unfortunate that I was not born a man. Emerson would accept me then as a colleague; my money would support his work; what a splendid time we would have, working and quarreling together. Oh, it is a pity I am a woman. Emerson would agree.”
“I am not so sure,” said Evelyn. There was a faint smile on her lips.
Also, every time Amelia called Emerson “that bearded person.” I love that forever. I will definitely be reading more in this series, and I hope they all continue to be this much fun.