The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer

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Before she became the nineteenth century’s greatest heroine, before he had written a word of Madame Bovary, Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert traveled down the Nile at the same time. In the imaginative leap taken by award-winning writer Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, the two ignite a passionate friendship marked by intelligence, humor, and a ravishing tenderness that will alter both their destinies.

In 1850, Florence, daughter of a prominent English family, sets sail on the Nile chaperoned by longtime family friends and her maid, Trout. To her family’s chagrin—and in spite of her wealth, charm, and beauty—she is, at twenty-nine and of her own volition, well on her way to spinsterhood. Meanwhile, Gustave and his good friend Maxime Du Camp embark on an expedition to document the then largely unexplored monuments of ancient Egypt. Traumatized by the deaths of his father and sister, and plagued by mysterious seizures, Flaubert has dropped out of law school and writ-ten his first novel, an effort promptly deemed unpublishable by his closest friends. At twenty-eight, he is an unproven writer with a failing body.

Florence is a woman with radical ideas about society and God, naive in the ways of men. Gustave is a notorious womanizer and patron of innumerable prostitutes. But both burn with unfulfilled ambition, and in the deft hands of Shomer, whose writing The New York Times Book Review has praised as “beautifully cadenced, and surprising in its imaginative reach,” the unlikely soul mates come together to share their darkest torments and most fervent hopes. Brimming with adventure and the sparkling sensibilities of the two travelers, this mesmerizing novel offers a luminous combination of gorgeous prose and wild imagination, all of it colored by the opulent tapestry of mid-nineteenth-century Egypt.

About Enid Shomer

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Enid Shomer won the Iowa Fiction Prize for her first collection of stories and the Florida Gold Medal for her second. She is also the author of four books of poetry. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and many other publications. She lives in Tampa, Florida.
Published August 21, 2012 by Simon & Schuster. 466 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Alternative literary history—the conceit here is that Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert, both of whom traveled to Egypt in 1850, met on the voyage and developed an ardent friendship.

Aug 01 2012 | Read Full Review of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

Publishers Weekly

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In her debut novel, poet/storywriter Shomer (Tourist Season) imagines Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale meeting in Egypt, among the crowds cruising the Nile.

Jun 04 2012 | Read Full Review of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

The Columbus Dispatch

In 1850, Gustave Flaubert — who would soon become the author of Madame Bovary — and Florence Nightingale — who would soon become a nurse during the Crimean War and the founder of modern professional nursing — both spent months cruising up and down the Nile and exploring the monuments of Egypt.

Aug 19 2012 | Read Full Review of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile

Historical Novel Society

From the bare coincidence that both Nightingale and Flaubert spent a summer sailing up and down the Nile in 1850—but on separate boats, with no indication that they ever met at any point—Shomer has written an epic but personal tale of the meeting of two exquisitely intelligent people (much too sm...

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Portland Book Review

Wilson Pulitzer Prize-Winning Biologist Author of On Human Nature Sat 11 Tix are available at The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer is revolving around the imagined relationship between Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale.

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