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The Hidden: A Novel Paperback – October 13, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061768251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061768255
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,018,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British author Hill's fourth novel, a chilly existential thriller, is dazzling in places, but suffers fatal problems of pacing and plausibility. Ben Mercer, a disaffected Oxford classics student, runs off to Greece to escape the fallout of a failed marriage. There, a chance encounter with former colleague Eberhard affords Ben the chance to work on an archeological dig in Sparta, Spartan civilization being Ben's area of expertise (his Notes Towards a Thesis on Spartan culture are interspersed throughout the novel and make a fascinating parallel text). Ben receives a frosty reception from Eberhard's secretive group, but after finding deformed skulls at the dig site, participating in a jackal hunt and developing a relationship with the beautiful Natsuko, Ben is accepted and begins to realize his compatriots have a sinister agenda. Hill's use of the thriller structure to make broader commentary about modern life provides many rewarding and intelligent turns, but the plot itself is slow, predicable and, due to the villains' largely unexplored motivations, unsatisfying. The evocations of Greece and historical details of Sparta are excellent, but too much of this novel is muddled or at odds with itself. (Oct.)
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Review

“[A] high-stakes, propulsive narrative. . . . The novel’s ideas are explored with stylish rigor and a rare boldness made all the more powerful by its surprising lyricism. (New York Times Book Review)

“The ingenious plot twists of THE HIDDEN are satisfying to follow, and the book’s constant sifting of the present through the past is done with admirable intelligence. But what lingers more than anything are these quick, sure, playfully notational passages. You don’t often see writing as lively as this.” (The Guardian)

“Apart from everything else that this novel is a beautifully paced thriller, a meditation on loss, guilt, obsession...it is also one of the finest novels written so far about this, our age of terror.” (The Observer)

“Hill keeps the tension building to a climax which features the most unpleasant final image I’ve come across in a long time. Quite brilliant.” (The Independent on Sunday)

“[An] elegant, sinister novel…Grippingly good.” (Marie Claire (UK))

“[T]his is a wonderful novel: elegant yet savage, restrained yet full-throttled, illuminated by the sort of brilliance that leaves you short of breath.” (Daily Telegraph (London))

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Customer Reviews

Too late to bother putting it down now.
Mercedes von Uppity
Strangely, the points of intersection are not in any way compelling.
Lanlady
It's pretty much left at that point with no resolution.
Steven E. Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Igor on April 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
How do you rate a well-written book that has a very bad plot?

Tobias Hill is obviously a very gifted writer. His command of the language is impressive to say the least. The imagery is beautiful, metaphors are effortless. Just a few subtle strokes is all it takes to set the mood for any given scene.

Unfortunately, all the skills in the world could not save this book. Simply put, it's boring. The narration crawls and meanders pointlessly for far too many pages. There are characters that don't serve any purpose in the plot. There is the setting, Sparta, and non-stop mentioning of its culture, traditions and mysteries, which turn out almost completely irrelevant to the actual plot. The excerpts from the PhD thesis written by the novel's protagonist are interspersed throughout the chapters. These also have nothing to do with the story, although ironically, they are one of the most interesting sections of the novel to read. It takes two thirds of the book to finally build up some semblance of suspense, but then comes the anticlimactic ending, and any hopes for a satisfying resolution of the plot come crashing to the ground.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Ben Mercer had read Classics and Archaeology at Oxford. His marriage had broken up, and he went to Greece to get away for a while. He worked in a restaurant in an Athens suburb; a fellow student from Oxford turned up at the restaurant and mentioned that he was working on a dig at what was Sparta. Ben thinks that would be ideal work for him - he had always been interested in the Spartans, not least because there is so little direct evidence about them: they left hardly any writing, and archaeological evidence is extremely meagre. Most of what we know about them comes from non-Spartan sources. Ben has been working on a thesis about Sparta, and the novel is interspersed with notes for it, and a grimly pathological, paranoid, cruel and savage society it must have been. He goes to the British School in Athens and gets himself sent to join the dig. He is looking also to work with a group: all his life he has been outside or at the most at the edge of groups. The dynamics of this particular group are both complicated and secretive: an inner circle does not welcome him and for a long time ignores him. Half-way through the book, they seem to accept him, and the scene where he is allowed to accompany them on a hunt to shoot a jackal is one of the few gripping passages in the book. The scenes towards the end of the book, which reveal what the group has been secretive about, are certainly unexpected but don't seem (to me, at any rate) to have any organic `rightness' about them, the supposed link with Spartan ways very tenuous.

I found the book disappointing. For a long time the plot did not seem to be going anywhere. The story is peppered with inconsequential events and inconsequential conversational exchanges.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like this intriguing novel itself, the title has many layers of meaning. The most obvious is the setting. The book mainly takes place during an archaeological dig in the ruins of ancient Sparta, in Southern Greece. Under the direction of an earnest American archaeologist, an international group of youngish workers (from America, Germany, Japan, Georgia, and Britain, together with some Greeks) work long hours to uncover relics of that ancient civilization that was at one time the dominant military power in Greece. No priceless artifacts are expected; this is a picture to be pieced together from broken potsherds and fragments of bone.

Another layer refers to ancient Spartan society -- a culture that not only left little evidence of its achievements but actually seems to have enshrined secrecy as a virtue. This background is discussed in chapters throughout the novel entitled "Notes Towards a Thesis," written by the protagonist, Ben Mercer, a graduate student of archaeology at Oxford who volunteers for the dig when it is already in progress. Hill is brilliant at setting out the facts and theories of classical history in a way that is anything but dry. The moment you open the book, you know you are in the presence of real intelligence, whether Ben's or the author's or both. And these historical interludes turn out to be essential underpinnings of the themes of the novel.

When Ben arrives at the dig, the five other non-Greek workers seem to have formed a clique that excludes him. One of them, a German named Eberhard, knew Ben slightly from Oxford, but now he seems disdainful and remote. Jason, the only other Englishman, offers apparent friendship that turns to antagonism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lanlady on January 27, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm half way through the book but it has taken me a long while to get even this far. Nothing much happens, and the characters--all of them--leave me cold. Much of the dialogue is contrived and artificial. A typical sample: "You're at Oxford?" --More or less. "Do you like it there?" --Not really. "No? I always though it sounded nice. Ivory towers. Tea and crumpets. Romantic evenings around the bar theater." There are three distinct pieces to this book: the historical notes; Ben's life on the dig in Sparta; and his life with ex-wife and child in England. Strangely, the points of intersection are not in any way compelling. In terms of plot, there is no reason why so much space is devoted to the breakup of his family, since the lead character, Ben, seems incapable of introspection and his domestic drama does nothing to move the story along. The historical notes are rather interesting, but the moment the book switches to present-day Greece or England, the narrative falls flat again. There's no incentive to keep reading to find out what the big "secret" or mystery is supposed to be. For that, you need to have your emotions invested in a book, but that's a tall order when a book fails to engage you in the story.
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