Land of Marvels

…by Barry Unsworth.

Set in the early 1900s, a British archeologist, John Somerville follows his life’s dream to uncover the Assyrian civilization and spends a few years in vain heading an excavation in Tell Erdek. Somerville’s desperation hits a high level as he runs out of funds and is still unable to justify his hard work so far. After three seasons of digging at that site, he finally finds a piece of ivory statue and hopes that that’s the start of him discovering something much bigger. What proves as a roadblock to him now in achieving his goals is the German railroad that is to be built through his work site – it makes him anxious every time he hears of any news of the railroad construction’s progress. As Somerville is caught up and too focused on discovering the past and bringing to light a civilization, he remains unaware of the other things that go on around him. Everyone seems to have a secret agenda of their own, which is all unveiled with time.

What attracted me to this book in the first place was its front cover. As I read through the summary and realized that it’s on a subject that I’ve never read before, I didn’t think twice before wanting to give it a shot. And I can now say that I wasn’t disappointed a bit. The story has so many angles to it – politics, love, betrayal, tragedy, science, history, and even a little bit of religion at the end. And all of this comes together as a well woven tale surrounding Somerville and his aim.

What I found very distracting at times was that there were way too many details about the characters pasts or about archeology in general that didn’t really apply to where the story was heading…the former bored me a bit, while the latter helped in learning something new. I felt that the first half of the novel was very slow paced. It took me quite few days to get through that, while the last part took me only half the time. If you lose interest while reading the first part, it might be hard to push yourself to read through the second half, which is where most of the story actually happens. So don’t give up way too early, if you are to get your hands on this book.

Overall, an interesting novel that comes recommended if you want to read something based on archeology specifically, although there is much more to the story than just that.

My rating: 4*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

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One comment on “Land of Marvels

  1. I notice that I get easily put off if the beginning of the novel is slow or if it’s hard to get into for any reason. Not good I know! But sounds interesting.

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