Florence Nightingale, Gustave Flaubert and the temptations of Egypt
In the winter of 1849, Florence Nightingale was an unknown 29-year-old - beautiful, well-born and deeply unhappy. After clashing with her parents over her refusal to marry, she had been offered a lifeline by family friends who suggested a trip to Egypt, a country which she had always longed to visit.
By an extraordinary coincidence, taking the same boat from Alexandria was an unpublished French writer, Gustave Flaubert. Like Nightingale, he was at the crossroads in his life that was to lead to future
acclaim and literary triumph. Egypt for him represented escape and freedom as well as inspiration.
But as a wealthy young man travelling with male friends, he had access to an altogether different Egpyt: where Nightingale sought out temples and dispensaries, Flaubert visited brothels and harems.
In this beguiling book, Anthony Sattin takes a key moment in the lives of two extraordinary figures on the brink of international fame, and provides a fascinating insight into the early days of travel to one of
the greatest tourist destinations on the planet.
“Anthony Sattin's study itself has a dreamlike quality . . . he movingly reminds us of how, in the midst of life, those destined for greatness have no more idea where they are going than the rest of us.”
“It is a tribute to Sattin's knowledge of Egypt and his skill as a writer that he makes this counterpoint narrative seem so effortless. His protagonists circle without ever touching in a dance through the desert.”
“Running beneath this cavalcade of visionary incidents and skilfully realised tableaux is a subtext about travel as a mystical dislocation.”
“In this entertaining book Sattin makes some important points on the intellectual, emotional and spiritual development of his immortal subjects.”
Mail on Sunday
“Sattin has written a brilliantly assured experiment in biography, a triumph of the historical imagination. Convincingly researched, informed by an unobtrusive first-hand knowledge of Egyptian places, compellingly skilful in the writing, the whole story is illuminated by Anthony Sattin's delicately perceptive sense of character in action.”
“Sattin's account is authoritative, thoroughly researched and pacy . . . this book is a treat.”
“Elegant and absorbing, A Winter On The Nile sheds fresh light upon two titans of the age”
Tim Butcher, author of BLOOD RIVER
“Beguiling and impressively researched ... A compelling snapshot of two of the most celebrated figures of the age, before their fame, and of a time when travel was leisurely and scholarly. And it sings with the romance of Egypt”
“If this doesn't win a major book prize, I will eat my sola topi ... Beautifully counterpoints the spiritual travel experiences of the soon-to-be-famous nurse fleeing an arranged marriage, with the much more lubricious ones of the then-unpublished novelist.”
Giles Foden, Conde Nast Traveller
“In 1849, Florence Nightingale and author Gustave Flaubert visited Egypt. Anthony Sattin's book recreates the transformative steps towards fame these two took as they simultaneously travelled around Egypt”
BBC Lonely Planet magazine