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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Land of Marvels: A Novel

Land of Marvels: A Novel

8 Ratings: 2.9
A book by Barry Unsworth

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, … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Barry Unsworth
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
9 reviews about Land of Marvels: A Novel
review by . March 11, 2009
Unsworth spins an atmospheric tale of intrigue, politics, history, archeology, romance, and natural resources set in the disintegrating Ottoman Empire on the eve of the Great War. Unsworth handles the volatile mix with the due care and respect it deserves, using understatement and irony with a deft touch to highlight the touch points without exploding them on contact.     The story turns on the discovery of a major Assyrian site by British archaeologist Somerville. The site stands …
review by . June 25, 2009
I've tried to read this book, I really have. I've put forth a lot of effort, but I just can't get into it! I don't know why. It's not badly written or anything like that, but there's something about it that just does not do it for me. I'm giving it three stars since, as I haven't finished it, anything else would be unfair, but like I said, I just really didn't get into this book at all.
review by . March 11, 2009
The phrase, "The Great Game" has been used to refer to the rivalry between the Russian and British Empires in the nineteenth century with the prize being domination of Central Asia. Afghanistan was the central region of the rivalry and to some extent the rivalry has continued into the latter part of the twentieth century. To many historians, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was just a continuation of this geopolitical "game."    The national rivalry between nations was global …
review by . February 24, 2009
The faded glory of Mesopotamia meets the faction-fractured mess that will become Iraq in Unsworth's latest, a 1914 brink-of-war novel.    Booker prizewinner Unsworth sets this carefully crafted tale on an archeological dig in the undeveloped desert oil fields of Mesopotamia. British archaeologist John Somerville, 35, has invested all his hopes and money in Tell Erdek, a mound "on the borderlands of empire," where he hopes to find the buried remains of a palace or a temple.     …
review by . January 18, 2009
In the Middle East very little is as it appears on the surface, an essential lesson for anyone working or doing business there. Those spending much time in the region are often reminded that "a signed contract is just a pause in the negotiations," just when they have invested so much into a project that they can no longer afford to walk away from it. Barry Unsworth's "Land of Marvels," set in 1914 Mesopotamia, is a reminder, however, that this way of conducting business is not necessarily as one-sided …
review by . January 17, 2009
I suppose it should be enough that Barry Unsworth wrote Sacred Hunger. It's an inspired piece of work, worthy of the awards and acclaim it's received. The problem is, it set me up to follow a career that has promised more than it's delivered. Now, I haven't read everything that's followed, but except for the genuinely creepy Losing Nelson, I've been disappointed.     Mr. Unsworth is fascinated by the recent US incursion into the Middle East. The Songs of the Kings: A Novel, was …
review by . January 12, 2009
In the summer of 1914, the Ottoman Empire was still the titular ruler of the region of Mesopotamia (today's Iraq) but the vultures of many nations had descended on the Empire's rotting carcass to pluck away its wealth. In the middle of this oil-rich region, a British archaeologist works feverishly to excavate a long-buried Assyrian palace which lies in the path of a proposed German railroad from Istanbul to Baghdad. A British lord, an American oil engineer, sundry Germans and Turks, and a thuggish …
review by . January 12, 2009
In the summer of 1914, the Ottoman Empire was still the titular ruler of the region of Mesopotamia (today's Iraq) but the vultures of many nations had descended on the Empire's rotting carcass to pluck away its wealth. In the middle of this oil-rich region, a British archaeologist works feverishly to excavate a long-buried Assyrian palace which lies in the path of a proposed German railroad from Istanbul to Baghdad. A British lord, an American oil engineer, sundry Germans and Turks, and a thuggish …
review by . January 04, 2009
I chose to read this book because I once dreamed of becoming an archaeologist, and having lived in the region, I was especially interested in the early history of the search for oil. Let me start out by saying that the book is definitely a better read than the flap copy might lead you to believe. The narrative focus on this small group works extremely well, and serves to underscore the myriad of competing interests focused on the region at the time.    Unsworth is a skilled writer, …
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