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Books  >>  Biography

Janet Soskice

The Sisters of Sinai

Janet Soskice The Sisters Of Sinai How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered The Hidden Go
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A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
A Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Agnes and Margaret Smith were not your typical Victorian scholars or adventurers. Female, middle-aged, and without university degrees or formal language training, the twin sisters nevertheless made one of the most important scriptural discoveries of their time: the earliest known copy of the Gospels in ancient Syriac, the language that Jesus spoke. In an era when most Westerners—male or female—feared to tread in the Middle East, they slept in tents and endured temperamental camels, unscrupulous dragomen, and suspicious monks to become unsung heroines in the continuing effort to discover the Bible as originally written.

“Marvelous. . . . [A] fine, fascinating account.” —Los Angeles Times
 
The Sisters of Sinai is a bracing and moving book . . . a reminder of the ardor, hardship and energy invested in the pursuit of knowledge in that endlessly inquiring and industrious Victorian age.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“Luminous. . . . By turns a rattling adventure yarn . . . and a testament to the power of perseverance.” —The Washington Post Book World
 
“Sets the extraordinary life of two plucky women . . . against a backdrop of swashbuckling Bible hunters, racing each other around the world to find the latest clue in the mystery of how the Bible was first written.” —Denver Post

“You don’t need to follow a particular religion to become engrossed in this enthralling narrative. The Sisters of Sinai is a tale of grand adventure and far-flung travels, and it proves appealing even on that level. Soskice is so adept at making a rarefied subject accessible and vivid that the narrative seems almost cinematic. If the heroines hadn’t been identical twins, in a film adaptation Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith would be brilliantly cast in the lead roles.” —The Christian Science Monitor
 
“A combination travelogue, mystery story, adventure narrative, and accounting of the rivalries which beset scholars of major universities in Britain toward the end of the 19th century. . . . [Soskice] catches the ‘feel’ of the era and brings these forgotten scholars to life.” —Charleston Gazette
 
“We compliment some non-fiction books by saying they read like novels, but The Sisters of Sinai reads better than a novel. Filled with tales of derring-do, arcane knowledge, persistence in the face of extraordinary odds, and the acquiring of and preservation of priceless knowledge, The Sisters of Sinai does what the best books do—makes you want to know much more.” —The Daily Herald (Utah)
 
“Lively and inspiring. . . . Thrilling. . . . Soskice describes those days of urgent outdoor transcription with the understandable yearning of a 21st-century theologian for whom such pioneering triumphs can only be a dream. Her deft handling of a travel yarn and her feel for the culture-bucking momentum of the twins’ lives makes the dream a compelling one.” —The Times (London)
 
“This rattling tale appears to come straight from an Indiana Jones adventure. . . . Yet this real-life expedition was not led by a whip-cracking archaeologist, but by two God-fearing Ayrshire twins. . . . Janet Soskice has done an excellent job in piecing together the lives of two remarkable, and largely forgotten women who, like Moses, made a discovery at Mount Sinai that would transform their lives forever.” —The Scotsman
 
“An absorbing and delightful chronicle, both of two fascinating women and of a crucial moment in the history of modern faith and modern disenchantment.” —First Things
 
“In Sisters of Sinai Janet Soskice has achieved the impossible—she has brought biblical scholarship to life. A gripping story of two spirited women determined to pursue the truth whatever the cost, with camels to boot. Wonderful.” —Sara Wheeler, author of Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garard
 
“This meticulously researched effort takes what for decades has been an intriguing footnote in the history of textual serendipity and gives it the full examination it so richly deserves. . . .Exciting.” —Fine Book Magazine
 
“An extraordinary and compelling book, combining vivid travel adventures, wonderful characters, and absorbing journeys of the mind and heart. Janet Soskice brilliantly and accessibly unfolds one of the most gripping sagas of Biblical detection, while telling the story of two magnificent women who trespassed intrepidly in worlds that sought to exclude them.” —John Cornwell, author of Hitler’s Pope


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