Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth, Jan. 6, 2009
I couldn't finish this book. I made it to page 69 but found the book just wasn't to my tastes. The word thriller is used in the description and I guess I just expected some thrills. I really couldn't concentrate on the book at all. I love the time-frame, early 20th century, and that is what made me think I would enjoy this book but there was too much ancient history, (Sumerians this, Assyrians that) and too much politics. Not my cup of tea at all. Perhaps it will be more to your liking. Here is the publisher's description:
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.