My book club chose Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters as our most recent read. I think everyone enjoyed it, and we got a pretty good discussion going at our meeting. Let’s get an overview of what the book is about:
Set in 1884, this is the first installment in what has become a beloved bestselling series. At thirty-two, strong-willed Amelia Peabody, a self-proclaimed spinster, decides to use her ample inheritance to indulge her passion, Egyptology. On her way to Egypt, Amelia encounters a young woman named Evelyn Barton-Forbes. The two become fast friends and travel on together, encountering mysteries, missing mummies, and Radcliffe Emerson, a dashing and opinionated archaeologist who doesn’t need a woman’s help — or so he thinks.
If I were asked what I thought the strongest part of this book was, I’d have to say the characters. They are so varied and likeable, for the most part. I especially liked the female characters, Amelia and Evelyn. They are both such strong women, although they show their strength and integrity in different ways. For example, Amelia is educated, opinionated, and outspoken. She knows what she wants and doesn’t take no for an answer. She also finds the fashion women are expected to wear in the 1800s ridiculous. She’d prefer to wear pants rather than a dress, and she doesn’t like anything frilly or extravagant. Evelyn, on the other hand, is very prim and proper when it comes to her clothing choices. She appears weak when compared to Amelia, but she does still have strong opinions, she just states them in a more tactful manner. The only thing about Evelyn that bothered me was how often she fainted in this book. It seemed like every time she was surprised or scared, down she went. It was kind of ridiculous.
There are two budding relationships in this book, and I wholeheartedly approved of both of them. Evelyn and Walter pretty much like each other from the first time they meet. Their relationship is quite innocent and pure-feeling. They like to gaze adoringly at each other in silence. The relationship between Amelia and Radcliffe has a completely different tone. They are both very opinionated, and stubborn as well. They argue a lot and seem exasperated by each other, but it’s obvious to everyone that they would be a perfect match…except for Amelia and Radcliffe themselves. They are completely oblivious to how each of them feels about the other. I thought the couples were perfect for each other and rooted for them to get together.
While the characters in Crocodile on the Sandbank were awesome, the plot could’ve used some work. The first 50 pages or so were kind of boring. In these pages, we get important information, like Amelia’s backstory, Evelyn’s backstory, and how the two meet each other. However, there is a lot of filler that I didn’t really care about. For example, we follow Evelyn and Amelia as they explore Egypt’s landmarks, choose a boat for their travels down the Nile, and decorate the interior of the boat to their liking. None of this really interested me and wasn’t essential information. The plot does become more interesting once Walter and Radcliffe are introduced, but I never felt completely invested in the story. It was entertaining, but if I weren’t reading it for my book club, I don’t know that I would’ve finished it.
I really liked how elevated the language was in Crocodile on the Sandbank. There were several words that I had to look up, just to make sure I knew the correct definition for them. Here are a couple of words used in the first two pages that I rarely see while reading: Fortuitous, propensity, negligible. The large vocabulary used in this book made me think about my most recent reads. Most of them were YA fiction and I don’t remember having to look up a single word in any of them. That makes me wonder: Are current YA authors using simpler language because their audience is younger and therefore has a smaller vocabulary or are all authors staying away from larger words? This could be an interesting topic for a paper! Too bad my paper-writing days are behind me!
The amount of typos in this book was horrific. Most of them were things like “by” instead of “be” or “go” instead of “ago,” but there were also a couple of places where the wrong word was used! I forgot to mark the pages of these larger errors, but one example of this occurred near the beginning of the book. The author meant to use the word “compassionate,” but used a different C-word that had a completely different meaning. Our book club had several different editions of this book, all of which had the same errors! Apparently the publisher didn’t edit the text again before reissuing the book.
***MAJOR SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS***
I wasn’t surprised when it was revealed that Lucas was behind the mummy plot. But the fact that Alberto was his accomplice did surprise me. I mean, I knew Lucas was involved somehow way before he was unmasked, but I don’t think I ever would’ve guessed that Alberto was in on it. It makes sense, though, once their relationship to each other is revealed.
I liked the ending, for the most part. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about Amelia’s pregnancy, though. Amelia seemed like such a strong, independent feminist throughout the book that I couldn’t picture her as being the type of woman who would want children. Plus, she doesn’t seem like she would have the patience to deal with kids. But I guess this book DOES take place in the 1800s, when it was expected of women to have lots of children. Either way, this piece of information didn’t seem to fit with Amelia’s personality, in my opinion.
***END OF SPOILER PARAGRAPHS***
I enjoyed Crocodile on The Sandbank for the most part, but I think my other book club members liked it more than I did. I’m not a big fan of mysteries or historical fiction, but I think those who are would enjoy this book a lot more than I did. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.