Sunday, May 31, 2009

Land of Marvels

Hi Flower!

How wonderful is it to read the latest book by an adored author and ---whew---you loved it!

Ahhh...a new Barry Unsworth novel. This is thrilling! Have you ever read anything by him, Flower? Unsworth is one of my top 10 favorite authors. I look forward to a new book by him with the same keen excitement that I await my siblings return to their own homes after holidays. He isn't a book a year writer so each new reading experience must be made to last. Also, he's 80 years old and hey I know older people but at 80 how many more finished novels does he have in him? I don't know but it's not as many as I want him to have in him I'm sure.

Unsworth has written a great many worthy reads. My favorites are:" Sacred Hunger" (1992 Booker winner), "Morality Play", "After Hannibal",  "The Greeks Have A Word For It" and "The Ruby In Her Navel". You aren't going to like my boy Barry if you are a page turning, card carrying member of the fan club of James Patterson. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

However you are going to love, adore and pray for at least 10 more novels and for a never out of print backlist if you are a fan of: storytelling that does not exclude questions of morality, the power of vocabulary, proper grammar and writing that allows you to discover verses writing that flat out tells you everything you need to know to understand why John doesn't marry Jane at the end of the book.

The new book is "Land of Marvels" (available at independent bookstores across the globe) and it is fabulous. It's the spring of 1914 and all that will happen soon to the greater world has already long been set in motion, but near the Euphrates in the Ottoman Empire this novel's smaller world is looking to the past. An amateur archaeologist named Somerville is running a dig that he hopes will uncover a major find. Something that will put him on the same level with the heroes of his youth.

Of course into this arena will come a variety of people with an even greater variety of agendas. "Land of Marvels" is a thriller at it's heart and in most hands thrillers offer up the good, the bad, the ugly, the prize and nothing else. Unsworth presents all those elements but because he is such a gifted writer he is able to shift your loyalties around this unsettling Edwardian game of Clue as easily as he makes Assyrian history and the geology of oil fascinating and understanable. "Land of Marvels" tells many stories and Unsworth's abilty to juggle them all with economy and elegance is very impressive.


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