Poet and novelist Anne Michaels puts together good words.
The story places two recently married Canadians, Avery and Jean, on the Nile River at a preservation project for the immense statuary and temple of Ramses at Abu Simbel (the time is circa 1964, during the construction of the Aswan Dam). Avery is an engineer, employed by this massive and intricate enterprise, and Jean is a botanist; they met while watching the seaway construction of the St. Lawrence river, grasping the irreversible impact on the lives and communities of that area. Now viewing the same process in Egypt, their idyll (living on a houseboat on the Nile) is interrupted by a tragedy that rends their marriage and sends them back to Toronto. There, Avery studies architecture and Jean takes up with a Polish émigréwhose stories of embattled Warsaw provide a distinctive dissonance against the world views of Avery and Jean.
Michaels’s narrative is a poignant and vivid illumination of the inevitability of time’s change. Or something like that.