Acclaimed author Anne Roiphe evokes the sights and sounds of 1880s Alexandria, Egypt, a bustling center of trade and travel. From teeming docks to overflowing market stalls, from grand homes to grimy narrow alleyways, cholera microbes rise and bob in streams of water and tiny droplets, clinging to moisture as man clings to air.
With a keen mind and dedication to his work, young Louis Thuillier has impressed his mentor—famed scientist Louis Pasteur—enough to be sent to Alexandria as one-third of the French mission searching for the source of the cholera that is terrorizing the city. Along with the other members of the French mission—scientists Emile Roux and Edmond Nocard and their enterprising servant Marcus—Louis longs to find the cure, bringing glory to himself and to France. Este Malina is the lovely daughter of a respected Jewish doctor, whose family has lived in Alexandria for hundreds of years. A life of comfort has made Este a romantic, and she hopes to marry a man with the heart of a poet. Neither expects to find a soul mate in the other, but when Este begins to assist at the French mission’s lab, a deep bond forms. Este, though, is engaged to another, and Louis is not Jewish—her family would never allow them to marry.
In spite of their many differences, the lovers’ desire grows and their fantasies threaten to distract them from their work. In Alexandria, the disease rages on, as mysterious as it was a thousand years before. Political intrigue threatens to separate Este and Louis permanently. Their love, as fragile as the glass slides they use in the lab, is in danger before it has had a chance to thrive.
With An Imperfect Lens, rich with the sights and scents of a different era, Anne Roiphe once again demonstrates the storytelling power for which she has long been hailed.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: An Imperfect Lens|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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An Imperfect Lens
After a night at anchor, a local pilot at the wheel, the Andromeda made her way around the small lighthouse that stood at the end of a long jetty. The dhows, brigantines, barques, and sloops entering the new port navigated carefully through the rocky channel of Boghaz.
Once in the harbor the ship passed the black hulks of rusting ironclads, from the sterns of which trailed the red flag with the star and crescent. Seamen with red caps were everywhere. Steersmen in beards and tarbooshes rowed out among the ships, where, above their heads, flew the flag of the United States of America and the Union Jack. Steamers from French and English companies shot into and out of the harbor or rested, temporarily moored, in the inner briny waters. Some of the pasha’s feluccas floated back and forth. They showed a Turkish flourish painted on the stern, and long-tailed Arabian characters were painted in gold on their paddle boxes. Steam whistles erupted in noisy calls as gray smudges from smokestacks marked the sky, and bells screamed out over the port.
The sun was burning down on the wooden railings of the ship. The captain stood on the forecastle and watched as his sailors made fast the ropes, swabbed the deck, and rolled the barrels containing the cloth up from the hold, down the planks, and onto the docks below. The ship bobbed up and down gently on the high tide. The journey had not been unduly harsh. They had encountered only one storm and had weathered it without damage and with only the expected loss of sleep as well as the loss of one cousin of one man who was himself a cousin of a third, whose head was knocked by a swingin...