Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Visitors by Sally Beauman

In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter, funded by George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, discovered the first intact tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, and unleashed a frenzy of interest in the boy pharaoh that continues to this day.

That's the context for Sally Beauman's newest novel, The Visitors, which tells the story of Lucy Foxe-Payne, a young girl recovering from typhoid and the loss of her mother by vacationing in Egypt in the early 1920's.  While there, she makes the acquaintance of Frances Winlock, daughter of the head of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and through Frances, she comes to know Carter, Carnarvon, his daughter Evelyn, and many other people involved in Egyptology in the early part of the 20th century.

Seeing this exotic world through Lucy's young eyes, you can't help getting caught up in the growing excitement surrounding the search for a new tomb, but The Visitors offers more than just an adventure in Egyptology.  Beauman's thoroughly researched novel  features deftly portrayed, emotionally complex characters.  It's written in a style that is both very readable and breathtakingly beautiful. Using the framework of the discovery of King Tut, Beauman has created a splendid, compelling story that's one of the best I've read this year.

The Visitors is due to be released in July, but it's already available in the VBPL catalog if you'd like to place a hold.  The library has a large collection of books exploring King Tut in both fact and fiction, and for another noted author's fictionalized look at Egyptian archaeology of the 1920's, check out Arthur Phillips' The Egyptologist.

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