The remarkable story of the intrepid French archaeologist who led the international effort to save ancient Egyptian temples from the floodwaters of the Aswan Dam, by the New York Times bestselling author of Madame Fourcade’s Secret War
“Fast-paced, highly entertaining . . . [a] thrilling account of the rescue of the giant statues of Rameses II and the Abu Simbel temples.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
In the 1960s, the world’s attention was focused on a nail-biting race against time: Fifty countries contributed nearly a billion dollars to save a dozen ancient Egyptian temples, built during the height of the pharaohs’ rule, from drowning in the floodwaters of the massive new Aswan High Dam. But the extensive press coverage at the time overlooked the gutsy French archaeologist who made it all happen. Without the intervention of Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, the temples would now be at the bottom of a vast reservoir. It was an unimaginably large and complex project that required the fragile sandstone temples to be dismantled, stone by stone, and rebuilt on higher ground.
A willful real-life version of Indiana Jones, Desroches-Noblecourt refused to be cowed by anyone or anything. During World War II she joined the French Resistance and was held by the Nazis; in her fight to save the temples she challenged two of the postwar world’s most daunting leaders, Egypt’s President Nasser and France’s President de Gaulle. As she told a reporter, “You don’t get anywhere without a fight, you know.”
Yet Desroches-Noblecourt was not the only woman who played an essential role in the historic endeavor. The other was Jacqueline Kennedy, who persuaded her husband to call on Congress to help fund the rescue effort. After years of Western plunder of Egypt’s ancient monuments, Desroches-Noblecourt did the opposite. She helped preserve a crucial part of Egypt’s cultural heritage, and made sure it remained in its homeland.
Lynne Olson is the New York Times bestselling author of Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Last Hope Island, Those Angry Days, and Citizens of London. She has been a consulting historian for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. She lives in Washington, D.C.
“Olson relates in this fast-paced, highly entertaining book. The highlight of Olson’s book is her thrilling account of the rescue of the giant statues of Rameses II and the Abu Simbel temples from inundation by the Aswan High Dam.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Olson, whose many previous books spotlight unsung heroes and heroines of that war, is here at her best . . . Empress of the Nile tells her story well, embedding it in the history of modern Egyptian archaeology. Empress of the Nile is a welcome and needed work of both rescue and reclamation.”—The Washington Post
“Olson provides a gripping account of an extraordinary life.”—Booklist, starred review
“Enriched by fascinating digressions into Egyptian history, museum rivalries, the plundering of archaeological sites, the 1956 Suez Crisis, and more, this is a captivating portrait of a pathbreaking woman. Readers will be enthralled.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A well-documented and sensitive portrait of a remarkable woman who shared her passion for Egypt and inspired so many others to find their calling, myself included, while at the same time helping to reinvigorate the Louvre.”—Henri Loyrette, Honorary President and Director of the Louvre Museum
“Lynne Olson’s many fans know her gift for storytelling and bringing to life heroes who may not be well known but demand—indeed, rivet—our attention. Readers will devour this wonderful book.”—Evan Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of First: Sandra Day O’Connor
“An exhilarating, in-depth look at a woman whose courage never faltered. Olson’s richly detailed biography takes the reader for a magnificent ride in this heart-stopping read.”—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace
“Once again, Lynne Olson introduces us to a modern heroine who defied the odds and achieved historic results. With her signature deep research and compassion for quirky characters, Olson spins an inspiring tale with a sometimes surprising cast. Empress of the Nile is a tonic for our times and a reminder that one unstoppable woman can bend history to her will.”—Kati Marton, New York Times bestselling author of The Chancellor
“Empress of the Nile is the best sort of micro history: both an intimate portrait of a groundbreaking woman and a whirlwind tour through the major events and personalities of the twentieth century. To anyone who ever tossed a coin into the waters around the Temple of Dendur—you must read this book.”—Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of Band of Sisters
“Lynne Olson has found yet another fascinating, unsung heroine: a French archaeologist with the moxie to take on the Egyptians, the Americans and the French to save historic Egyptian temples.”—Meryl Gordon, author of three biographies including Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend