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Wednesday 13 December 2023

THE MUMMY - Book review


Anne Rice’s 1989 novel The Mummy (or Ramses the Damned) is not a novelisation of the Brendan Fraser film (which came out ten years later!)  Apparently, Rice began this as a film script but she and the studios had conflicting visions about the story so she abandoned the screenplay idea and wrote the book.

It’s a seductive read that begins slowly and then develops with intrigue and murder. It’s 1914, before Carter has found the tomb of Tutankhamen. Archaeologist Lawrence Stratford has uncovered the tomb of Ramses the Great. Puzzlingly, there seems a link to the Egyptian ruler Cleopatra, yet Ramses’ reign was many years before the Queen of the Nile was born... Accompanying Lawrence is his nephew Henry Stratford, a ne’er-do-well. Lawrence’s daughter Julie was in London with her fiancé Alex Savarell, Viscount Summerfield, the son of Elliott, the Earl of Rutherford. The marriage had been arranged when they were children; through this marriage the Rutherford family would gain the Stratford wealth in exchange for the title. However, Julie was a strong-willed independent-minded woman, so the courtship was not going anywhere fast.

It is no spoiler since the blurb announces the fact: Ramses the mummified king awakens and appears before Julie in a dramatic scene. ‘Dear God, she thought, this is not merely a man gifted with beauty; this is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen’ (p92).

The reason for Ramses not being a dry husk of a mummy is that he was merely dormant, not dead, and was revived by sunlight. He was immortal, three thousand years old, having drunk an elixir centuries ago. He does not need sleep or food, though he is impelled to satisfy appetites that he cannot assuage.

The book is a visual feast: we can envisage the scenes in their entirety. It’s sensuous, particularly as love develops between Julie and Ramses. Conflict is supplied by the unsavoury Henry, who is not averse to killing to get what he wants, and the newly discovered Cleopatra, Ramses’ lost love.

There are many light and amusing touches as Ramses learns about the early twentieth century. He is a fast study, particularly as he does not need sleep. Over the centuries when he roamed the earth he learned a number of languages, too. He adopted the name Reginald Ramsey in order to accompany Julie on their forays through society, all part of his education.

While they are touring Cairo, accompanied by Elliott and Henry, mysterious deaths occur. Mr Ramsey falls under suspicion...

Cleverly plotted, the story reveals the problems of immortality and ever-lasting love.

The book ends with the promise of further adventures of Ramses the Damned; but there was a long wait! There is no great need to take up the sequels, however; the ending of this book was satisfactory enough for me.

The sequels, co-written with her son Christopher are Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra (2017) and Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris (2022). Anne Rice dided in 2021, aged 80.

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