Book Review: The Visitors by Sally Beaman
September 7, 2015 5 Comments
Harper (publisher) says: “Based on a true story of discovery, The Visitors is New York Times bestselling author Sally Beauman’s brilliant recreation of the hunt for Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings—a dazzling blend of fact and fiction that brings to life a lost world of exploration, adventure, and danger, and the audacious men willing to sacrifice everything to find a lost treasure.
In 1922, when eleven year-old Lucy is sent to Egypt to recuperate from typhoid, she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist. The friendship draws the impressionable young girl into the thrilling world of Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, who are searching for the tomb of boy pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.
A haunting tale of love and loss, The Visitors retells the legendary story of Carter and Carnarvon’s hunt and their historical discovery, witnessed through the eyes of a vulnerable child whose fate becomes entangled in their dramatic quest. As events unfold, Lucy will discover the lengths some people will go to fulfill their deepest desires—and the lies that become the foundation of their lives.
Intensely atmospheric, The Visitors recalls the decadence of Egypt’s aristocratic colonial society, and illuminates the obsessive, daring men willing to risk everything—even their sanity—to claim a piece of the ancient past. As fascinating today as it was nearly a century ago, the search for King Tut’s tomb is made vivid and immediate in Sally Beauman’s skilled hands. A dazzling feat of imagination, The Visitors is a majestic work of historical fiction.”
The Visitors: What I thought
The story is told by an old lady, who, as a young girl, traveled to Egypt a few times with her guardian. She befriends the daughter of an archaeologist and meets several other people involved with the archaeological digs, as well as people from the upper class British society, who are spending their holidays in Egypt.
The rest of Lucy’s life is in one way or another connected to her experiences in Egypt. At the end of her life, she tells her story and leaves a few surprising scenes until the end. She goes into a lot of detail, which gives the story a brilliant 1920s atmosphere. However, it also means that it is sometimes a little slow.
The story sometimes felt a little contrived: in order to know all that happened during the excavations, she had to befriend (or listen into the stories of) quite a few people and be at the right place at the right time. On the other hand, it is clear that the author has done a lot of research into the Egyptian excavations as well as the politics of the time – Egypt wanted to reduce the influence of the British in their country, and more specifically, didn’t want ancient artifacts to be taken out of the country. The British archaeologists were keen to show off their findings in the British Museum or keep some items for their own collection.
This is a very atmospheric story. While a little long, it’s worth a read if you’re interested in the 1920s, a time often overlooked in novels because of the World Wars and the Great Depression surrounding it.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 530
First published: 2014
I got this book: from the publisher for an honest review
Genre: historical fiction
Also read by this author: Rebecca’s Tale