Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth
A Novel

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Barry Unsworth

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Barry Unsworth (1930-2012), who won the Booker Prize for Sacred Hunger, was a Booker Prize finalist for Morality Play and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for The Ruby in Her Navel.
 
Published December 24, 2008 by Nan A. Talese. 306 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Land of Marvels

Kirkus Reviews

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The Booker Prize–winning British author's latest novel is a tale of archaeological exploration and global political cross-purposes, set in the former Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in the immediate pre-war year of 1914.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Land of Marvels: A Novel

The New York Times

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In this historical novel, characters dig, seduce and scheme around the untapped oil fields in the land that will become Iraq.

Jan 18 2009 | Read Full Review of Land of Marvels: A Novel

The Guardian

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The story has clearly appeared as a political struggle, pitting morally opposed forces against each other: disinterested knowledge against interested knowledge - research against spying and the science of archaeology, with little immediately practical application, against the science of geology, ...

Jan 16 2009 | Read Full Review of Land of Marvels: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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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 ch

Sep 15 2008 | Read Full Review of Land of Marvels: A Novel

Scotsman.com

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Dec 31 2008 | Read Full Review of Land of Marvels: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

The story has clearly appeared as a political struggle, pitting morally opposed forces against each other: disinterested knowledge against interested knowledge—research against spying and the science of archaeology, with little immediately practical application, against the science of geology, so...

Jan 04 2009 | Read Full Review of Land of Marvels: A Novel

Reader Rating for Land of Marvels
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