Barry Unsworth, a writer with an “almost magical capacity for literary time travel” (New York Times Book Review) has the extraordinary ability to re-create the past and make it relevant to contemporary readers. In Land of Marvels, a thriller set in 1914, he brings to life the schemes and double-dealings of Western nations grappling for a foothold in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.
Somerville, a British archaeologist, is excavating a long-buried Assyrian palace. The site lies directly in the path of a new railroad to Baghdad, and he watches nervously as the construction progresses, threatening to destroy his discovery. The expedition party includes Somerville’s beautiful, bored wife, Edith; Patricia, a smart young graduate student; and Jehar, an Arab man-of-all-duties whose subservient manner belies his intelligence and ambitions. Posing as an archaeologist, an American geologist from an oil company arrives one day and insinuates himself into the group. But he’s not the only one working undercover to stake a claim on Iraq’s rich oil fields.
Historical fiction at its finest, Land of Marvels opens a window on the past and reveals its lasting impact.
Barry Unsworth was born in 1930 and grew up in a mining town in northeast England. Descended from a long line of coal miners, he was the first Unsworth to escape the mines. He attended Manchester University and published his… More about Barry Unsworth
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Published by Nan A. Talese Jan 06, 2009| 288 Pages| 5-5/8 x 8-1/4| ISBN 9780385529471
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“This is the work of a master: lean, elegant, and wise, weaving the doomed ambitions of two fallen empires into a compelling story that also deftly comments on the American presence in Iraq.” —Andrea Barrett
“Land of Marvels is up to Unsworth’s highest standard, featuring a cast of fascinating characters thrown together in the desert of Mesopotamia just before the Great War, all furiously digging for the past and turning up the future. American readers will recognize the landscape and learn some surprising facts about how we got exactly where we are right now. As well as a great read, Land of Marvels is an important book.” —Valerie Martin
“An intriguing story, elegantly and eloquently told.” —Peter Ackroyd