This is a 1953 novel by an older writer (in her seventies) at the time of publication, and it shares a lot of the same kinds of interest and focus of some of the other writers emerging in the early 1950s like Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym, and Muriel Spark, but with the clear air of someone older. It does not retain of the same stodginess (which I often love) of other writers elderly in the same era like Francis Compton-Burnett or Rebecca West.
This novel is narrated by Laurie, a woman in her late 20s or early 30s on a trip across Christendom with her elderly aunt Dot (modeled partially on Dorothy Sayers, friends of Rose Macauley) and an officious Anglican priest who is both annoying persistent in converting or reconverting Laurie and being ignorant and offensive toward the setting around him.
They travel through Palestine and Turkey and Jordan and think about going to Egypt. What comes through all of this novel is less so a reminder of the falling of the British empire, even though that is a large part of the book, but more so about the resetting of a land back to a condition previous to Empire. Meaning a return of things to some semblance of how they were, even though those things can’t be reset fully and with the added trappings of modernity. Sometimes the novel is really funny and sometimes it drags. I like the long conversations about religion but sometimes this book is so dry, it’s a fire hazard.