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House of Illusions [Mass Market Paperback]

Pauline Gedge
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 4 2007

For many years, Thu has lived in exile, writing the tragic history of her life as the favourite concubine of Ramses III—and her role in the conspiracy to kill him. A young soldier, Kamen, has read her words and believes her testimony that she was not acting alone. When Kamen shows Thu’s manuscript to his general, he unknowingly sets in motion a stirring drama of revenge and punishment, miraculous disclosures, and unexpected vindication.

House of Illusions is the stunning sequel to the bestselling House of Dreams, and brings Thu’s story to its surprising and dramatic conclusion.


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From Kirkus Reviews

Ancient history comes alive and stays that way as Thu, the Egyptian peasant in Lady of the Reeds (1995) who became a pharaoh's concubine and was then banished, now triumphantly vindicates herself. Like its predecessors, this fifth in a series is set at the height of ancient Egypt's influence. Gedge excels at setting the scene and subtly evoking a sense of the period as she tells a timeless story of greed, love, and revenge--a story that picks up 17 years after Thu has been banished to her native village of Aswat for her part in a plot to murder the Pharaoh Ramses. Kamen, a young soldier and the adopted son of a merchant, now on his way back from Nubia, spends the night in Aswat and is accosted by a blue-eyed woman who asks him to deliver an intricately bound package to the pharaoh. Kamen's companions dismiss the woman as mad, but he himself, not entirely convinced of her madness, agrees to take it. Back in the capital, he hands it over to his commanding general Paiis, and when Paiis realizes what the package contains--Thu's account of the role Paiis and others played in the plot to murder Ramses--he and his co-conspirators act quickly. Kamen is commanded to bring the woman to the city, and so, once again in Aswat, he and Thu narrowly escape an assassin. As Thu seeks a hearing in the capital, she and Kamen are ruthlessly hunted down by the former plotters. Only the intervention of the dying Ramses and his heir saves them. Justice is done, and Thu is not only reunited with her long-lost son but meets up again with the only man she's ever loved--the man who used, deserted, but never forgot her. Thu is larger than life, and coincidences abound, but Gedge is so splendid a teller of tales that all is forgiven. First-class historical fiction. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Pauline Gedge lives in Alberta, but since her first novel, Child of the Morning, about the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, she has been most at home in ancient Egypt. In her second, The Eagle and the Raven, she veered into early Roman Britain, and I found it unconvincing-just possibly because I know more about Roman Britain than about ancient Egypt. But in her third novel, The Twelfth Transforming, she returned to Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt to tell the story of Akhenaten, the oddest of the pharaohs. Then she wrote Scroll of Saqqara, derived from a supernatural tale of the Nineteenth Dynasty.
The three thousand years and thirty dynasties of ancient Egypt make a rich quarry for the historical novelist: we have the names of the pharaohs, many of their relations, and numerous nobles, and records of some but by no means all of the events of the reigns. Thus Pauline Gedge can take a recorded incident and use her considerable powers of imagination to invent a story to surround it. House of Dreams (1994) and its sequel House of Illusions started, I imagine, from the known fact that late in the long reign of the Twentieth Dynasty pharaoh Ramses III a conspiracy to assassinate him, originating in the harem, was uncovered, and a number of highly placed men and women were implicated and condemned. The obvious problem for the novelist was to account for the discovery of a plot against a king who was on his deathbed.
In these two novels, which are really one novel, the first is a first-person narrative by Thu, a peasant girl from a village high up the Nile named Aswat. She goes to the capital at the age of thirteen under the patronage of Hui, chief seer and physician to Pharaoh. Over the next three years (a willing suspension of disbelief is advised here), she becomes an accomplished physician, and then Pharaoh's favourite concubine until she conceives and bears a son. Then it turns out that all along she has been being groomed as the instrument of a group of nobles who are plotting the murder of Ramses. The attempt fails, and Thu is charged. She sends Pharaoh a letter naming the conspirators, but an investigation turns up no confirming evidence. (This is a weak point in the story, I think.) She is convicted and condemned to death, but Ramses for old times' sake commutes her sentence to exile in Aswat, without her son.
The first part of House of Illusions, the second volume, is narrated by Kamen, a very young subaltern. Returning from a mission in Nubia, he stops at Aswat. The official he is escorting warns him that there is a madwoman there who pesters everyone from the capital to take a box she has to Pharaoh. Though told to pay no attention, Kamen is struck by her and does take her box. Having no access to Pharaoh himself, he gives it on his return to his commanding officer, General Paiis, who is a brother of Hui and was a member of the conspiracy. The reader by this time has realized that the box contains Thu's manuscript account of her youth-in fact, House of Dreams. Paiis sends Kamen on a fake mission to Aswat, intending that both he and Thu will be murdered. Kamen divines this just in time, kills the hired assassin, and returns to the capital with Thu and the copy of her manuscript that she has prudently kept. It's some time before Kamen realizes that he, the adopted son of a wealthy merchant, is-of course-the son of Thu and Ramses.
The story works itself out from there, and ends with the condemnation and death of the conspirators as in the actual surviving record, and, as the last act of the dying Ramses, the restoration of Thu to the country estate he once gave her, where she will live happily ever after.
Pauline Gedge's strengths-imagination, ingenuity in plotting, and convincing characterization-are here in abundance. Her weakness, excessive wordiness, is, I think, under rather better control, though she still can't resist pausing from time to time to tell us all she knows or surmises about Egyptian interior decoration, landscape architecture, customs, costumes, and cosmetics. I. M. Owen(Books in Canada) -- Books in Canada --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Egypt Vividly Recreated April 4 2002
Format:Hardcover
I LOVE Pauline Gedge's books about Egypt (as well as her other books). "Illusions" opens with the main character, Thu, a woman who has been banished to live alone in the desert, serving the priests in a temple there, because of an accusation that she attempted to kill Pharaoh when she lived at court. Thu wishes desperately to send a message to Pharaoh explaining what really happened, but she is never given the opportunity, until one day a young court officer arrives, and agrees to help her. Discovering that this is his mother, he helps her plot revenge on the group of people who set her up for the crime which caused her exile. In the process of intrigue, Thu does not always act wisely, and her character is not always admirable. Thus, though she is the heroine of the story, Thu is not necessarily lovable, but she is definitely fascinating. The plot is complex, involving all the characters that surround Pharaoh. The scenery, the buildings, the poorer sections of the city, the clothing, the feasts...everything... is so vividly described, that I am caught up in these images. This feeling of being transported there is reason enough to read Gedge's books, but combined with the drama and suspense, they are unforgettable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The story of Thu of Aswat continues... July 7 2000
Format:Hardcover
House of Illusions picks up the story of Thu of Aswat sixteen years after her diary ends in Lady of the Reeds. For the past interval, Thu has been serving internal banishment in her native village of Aswat for her part in the harem plot to murder Ramses III. The terms of her exile are thus: She must remain in Aswat and exist in simplicity. She must provide sustenance for herself. Her feet must be unshod. She cannot marry or have a consort, as technically she remains a concubine of Ramses III. She must perform menial manual labor in the local temple of Wepwawet. Thus it has been until one day... a royal messenger barge docks in the temple canal at Aswat. Per form, Thu begs the occupants to deliver a box to Pharaoh on their return to Pi-Ramesses. This box contains her diary, the story of her life. Thu hopes that upon reading her diary, Ramses will realize how badly and by whom she was manipulated, and true justice will finally prevail. She also dearly hopes Ramses will remember the great love they once shared, and perhaps a softening of his hard heart by these joyous and sensual memories will induce him to pardon her or commute sentence. A young soldier, Kamen, agrees to deliver the box. Unbeknownst to either at this time, Thu and Kamen are mother and son. House of Illusions continues the story of Thu of Aswat in a trilogy of different perspectives. The first is that of the young soldier Kamen, whose life changes forever the moment he accepts the box from Thu. The second perspective is that of Kaha, a minor scribe at the estate of Hui when Thu lived there, but now the chief scribe for the wealthy merchant Men, who is Kamen's adoptive father. The last and most endearing perspective comes from Thu herself. I will not reveal the ending to this story, but merely say that justice prevails in a manner that is incredible, and yet so sweetly poetic.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not As Good As 'Lady Of The Reeds' Nov. 3 2002
Format:Hardcover
I got this book a week or so ago and while it is excellent I didn't find it as good as Lady Of The Reeds(published as House Of Dreams in Canada). The plot didn't seem as strong, and to me it was a little bit disconcerting having three parts (the first told by Kamen, the second by a scribe, and the third by Thu) inside the book.
It's still a good book, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Gedge once again has painted a vivid image of Ancient Egypt and continued with the story of Thu. The plot was still griping, even if it didn't shine quite as brightly as Lady Of The Reeds, and the characters were well-written as usual. This book is worth buying, and the ending has an interesting twist.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A sequel that easily stands on its own Sept. 2 1997
Format:Hardcover
The return of some of the most intriquing characters in Ancient Egypt! The first book was wonderful, with characters that exposed dark and human sides and a main character that draws readers in to her incredible story. In the sequel, Gedge has beautifully developed her characters in the seventeen years since the first segment of the story of the concubine Thu. While a few outcomes were expected, overall it was a suspenceful and romantic read that showed how close all humans are, regardless of the era in which they live.
I think I have found my new favorite author!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A suitable sequel! March 17 2002
Format:Hardcover
Pauline Gedge, as usual, is probably the best writer of "Egyptian Fiction". Her characters and scenes are equisitely detailed, whether she writes in the third or first person. House of Illusions continues the story of Thu, and her son, who were separated under edict of Rameses III. The ending and events, although near the end were rather fantastical and almost predictable. If you have not read Lady of the Reeds, then you probably would not enjoy this book as much, but as sequels go, it is quite well done.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Nov. 22 2002
Format:Hardcover
When I read 'Lady of the reeds' and found out there was a second book following Thu's life, I never expected it to be this good, I got the book three days ago and I have to admit, it was very hard for me to put it down, I have to say Pauline Gedge did an amazing job, in her book you can feel the pain, passion and regrets involving Thu's life. I just have to say, you have to read this book, believe me, you won't regret it.
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