Temple in the Sand

The Memoirs of a Pharaoh

Fiction - Historical - Personage
248 Pages
Reviewed on 02/23/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Temple in the Sand: The Memoirs of a Pharaoh by Marjorie Vernelle is a fascinating fictional account of a personal journal kept by Seti I. Perhaps best known as the father of the great Pharaoh Ramesses II, Seti was an extraordinary man in his own right. His father had been granted the title of pharaoh despite not being of royal lineage and only served as pharaoh for a brief time before his death. Seti I had to prove himself to his people and he set about doing this. This book documents his private thoughts, interactions, and doubts about his legacy and role as the ruler of the Black Lands. Although he was a true warrior and proved this countless times in his eleven-year reign, his artistic achievements perhaps made his legacy so compelling. Amongst his greatest creations were the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak; his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, where his funeral chamber is often referred to as “the Sistine Chapel” of ancient Egypt; and his mortuary temple in Abydos. It is written on the walls of the Temple of Seti that the pharaoh kept a diary that he had hidden within the temple. Although the diary has never been found, the author shows readers a deeply personal and moving portrayal of a man who ruled the greatest kingdom of the time.

Temple in the Sand is a wonderful read, partly because of the period and historical interest of ancient Egypt but, more importantly, because Marjorie Vernelle shows not just the glory of the pharaoh but his humanity, feelings, insecurities, and weaknesses. I particularly appreciated the intense introspection that Seti frequently went through, especially in bed, as he considered his position as a mere mortal, raised to be amongst the gods and to be venerated as one. His doubts and insecurities gave this living god a human face. Because, like his father, he was not of true royal blood, there was always this nagging doubt in his mind as to his rightful place as pharaoh. However, this was also the powerful force that drove him to create not only an architectural legacy but also to ensure the success and preparedness of his beloved son Ramesses to establish a new dynasty to match that of the ancient one. The author does a magnificent job of exposing this king's thoughts and true character but tempers his majesty with stories of humanity that we can all identify with. His fear of dying, as he realizes his time is coming to an end, plus his constant questioning of his parental skills and the lack of attention he, as a parent, had given to his first son and his two daughters are clear evidence of his humanity and will be readily identifiable with readers. The excerpts taken from the Egyptian Book of the Dead add special extra authenticity to the tale. This is a wonderful story about a period that has fascinated modern man. Beautifully written, it is an excellent book that I highly recommend.