From Publishers Weekly
Booker Prize-winning Unsworth (The Ruby in Her Navel
) sets his intelligent and timely new book in Mesopotamia during the spring of 1914, just before the chaos of WWI. John Somerville, a British archeologist desperate for fame, worries that his new discovery, an ancient tomb, will be compromised by the construction--funded by Germany--of a new railway line. At the excavation site, Somerville's wife, Edith, wonders if her marriage has fizzled, especially after the arrival of Alex Elliott, a handsome American posing as a geologist but secretly searching for new sources of oil. Meanwhile, Jehar, an Arab confidence man, brings often fabricated messages to Somerville, warning him that the Germans are quickly approaching. The tension between the players--all eager to claim rights to what the land provides--builds toward a violent, unexpected finale. In elegantly modulated prose, Unsworth creates a tapestry of ambition and greed while, at the same time, foreshadowing the current conflict in the region. (Jan.)
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It is 1914, and, after three years in the deserts of Mesopotamia, the British archeologist John Somerville believes he is on the brink of a great discovery. Before he can uncover what he thinks was the residence of the last Assyrian king, Somerville must fight off plans for a railway that will encroach on his dig site, and thwart the efforts of Elliot, a charismatic, straight-talking American (in British historical novels there is rarely any other kind) who is bent on finding oil and on destroying what remains of Somerville�s marriage. There is something of E. M. Forster in Unsworth�s knowing depiction of a decaying empire run by upper-class incompetents, and in his generous and sympathetic portrayal of women caught between cultures, but he falters in the execution: the plot is that of a thriller, yet the story unfolds at the leisurely pace of a somewhat distracted teatime conversation.
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