Summary and book reviews of Down the Nile by Rosemary Mahoney

Down the Nile

Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff

By Rosemary Mahoney

Down the Nile
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2007,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2008,
    304 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Diane La Rue

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Book Summary

When Rosemary Mahoney, in 1998, took a solo trip down the Nile in a seven-foot rowboat, she discovered modern Egypt for herself. As a rower, she faced crocodiles and testy river currents; as a female, she confronted deeply-held beliefs about foreign women while cautiously remaining open to genuine friendship; and, as a traveler, she experienced events that ranged from the humorous to the hair-raising - including an encounter that began as one of the most frightening of her life and ended as an edifying and chastening lesson in human nature and cultural misunderstanding.

Whether she's meeting Nubians and Egyptians, or finding connections to Westerners who traveled up the Nile in earlier times - Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert among them - Mahoney's informed curiosity about the world never ceases to captivate the reader.

The River That Flows the Wrong Way

ON THE DAY that I hoped to buy a rowboat in Luxor, Egypt, I was awakened, as I had been every morning in Luxor, by a Koranic antiphony drifting from the Islamic boys' school next door to my hotel. With all the zeal of a Baptist preacher's, a young boy's amplified voice shrieked repeatedly in Arabic, "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his witness!" and a shrill chorus of his schoolmates howled the words back at him. I got out of bed and went to the window - at 7:00 a.m. the glass was already warm as an infant's forehead - and discovered that during the night many colorful cloth banners had been strung above the corniche, Luxor's Nilefront boulevard. In hand-fashioned Arabic characters, the banners read, "Welcome Mister President of the Government, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, the Leader of Our Victorious and Progressive Destiny." Scores of teenage Egyptian soldiers in black uniforms, woolen berets, ...

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Reviews

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Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff records Rosemary Mahoney's solo journey rowing down the River Nile - a river that flows south to north, which intrigues her*. Mahoney's prose is lovely: "The more I learned about the Nile, the less forbidding it seemed. I had so often imagined rowing on the Nile that doing so had begun to feel less like a fantasy and more like a memory that only wanted its corresponding action rightfully exercised." Her descriptions of the scenery, topography and animals of Egypt paint vivid pictures in the reader's mind.   (Reviewed by Diane La Rue).

Full Review Members Only (1266 words).

Media Reviews
San Francisco Chronicle - Peter Lewis

Mahoney's flair for description coaxes reverence and wonder, at once delicate, opalescent miniatures of her surroundings, though with the chew and savoriness of nougat ... She also displays a felicity for drawing history into the mix, flashing sequins of background color.

People Magazine - Michelle Green

[Mahoney’s] compelling chronicle makes clear it was worth playing the spy…she experiences a rare view of a timeless culture….she tried to grasp the sense of 'being let in on a secret.' Grasp it she does, and Down the Nile is a first-rate report on her mission.

Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese

Riveting….The trip would be no more than a gutsy stunt if Mahoney were not such a beautifully precise writer and such a compassionate observer.

The New York Times - Lisa Fugard

This intriguing book encompasses far more than Mahoney's hours on the Nile and a delicious recounting of the river's history.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This is travel writing at its most enjoyable.

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Beyond the Book

Rosemary Mahoney

Some people categorize Rosemary Mahoney as a travel writer, but she is much more than that label suggests. Her intellectual curiosity, fearlessness, and ability to craft beautiful prose, along with her uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, have led to her success.

Her first adventure occurred when she was seventeen and sent a letter to her idol playwright Lillian Hellman, asking for a summer job. What she thought would be a summer sitting at the feet of her mentor ended up with her being a servant to a rude woman.

Mahoney's memoir of this summer is titled, A Likely Story; One Summer with Lillian Hellman, and while reviewers praised her writing, some people criticized her ...

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