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Land of Marvels

von Barry Unsworth

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
4171947,126 (3.39)100
In this thriller set in the Middle East of 1914, Somerville, a British archaeologist, and his team are excavating a long-buried Assyrian palace when an American geologist from an oil company posing as an archaeologist arrives one day and insinuates himself into Somerville's group. But he's not the only one working undercover to stake a claim on Iraq's rich oil fields.… (mehr)
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This wasn't really my kind of reading. I have to addmit that Unsworth's writing style is lovely but the story didn't catch my interest. It's more a kind of characteristic of the individual protagonists, which are by geographical events at the same time and same place, and therefore try to make out the best for their own interest. The characters and their interests can not be more different, and this makes the contact between them not simple. ( )
  Ameise1 | Jan 19, 2016 |
With the Ottoman Empire in decline and with the threat of war in the spring of 1914, British archaeologist Somerville feels the pressure of time to find something of value at the Mesopotamian site he has chosen for excavation. He is certain that the railway the Germans are building will soon reach and destroy his site. Just when items of significance start to turn up at the dig, Somerville is persuaded to add an undercover American geologist to his crew. The geologist isn't interested in archeology; he's only interested in the abundance of oil that lies not far beneath the surface. Somerville's Arab guide/scout, Jehar, will say or do anything to earn enough money to allow him to marry the beautiful young girl who's been enthralled by his stories. The elevation of ambition and desire over reason will lead to disaster.

Unsworth delves deeply into archeology, the history of the ancient Near East, and geology while avoiding the feel of an “information dump”. The land and its history are at the core of the novel. The characters seem more like types than like real people. None of the characters are sympathetic, except perhaps the teenage girl who is the object of Jehar's devotion. This novel nearly fails the Bechdel test. While there are three female characters, one of them never meets the other two, and the two at the archaeological site dislike each other so much that they hardly speak to each other. Unsworth's descriptive writing held my attention and leaves me interested in trying some of his award winning and nominated works. ( )
1 abstimmen cbl_tn | Jan 5, 2016 |
A young archaeologist is trying to make his name in a dig in Iraq in the summer before WWI, and he is racing to find something interesting before the German's build a railway line through his dig site. Meanwhile, the English send an American to look for oil in the area.

There were some intriguing things here, but for being such a short novel it had too many characters - they all remained one-dimensional. There were long rambling tangents about ancient Mesopotamia, which were of course relevant to the archaeological dig, but from what I could see they didn't really add anything to the story. The end was highly disappointing.

I think the problem is that Unsworth was trying to make a point instead of trying to tell a story. He's much more concerned about showing his reader why Middle Eastern politics are a mess, and how the rest of the world used the Middle East like a giant chessboard, than about telling a story. It feels like he decided he had made his point, and then couldn't decide how to end the story, and then just wrote a really horrible cop-out ending at the very last minute.

What redeemed the book for me was Unsworth's writing - he is an excellent writer - but the writing didn't make up for the bad storyline. ( )
1 abstimmen Gwendydd | Sep 23, 2012 |
In this novel of Mesopotamia in 1914, a stiff upper lipped Englishman is in charge of an archaeological dig, but those confounded chaps intent on organising a war won’t let him get on with it and it’s a dashed nuisance. And if that weren’t enough there’s an awful lot of bally nonsense over oil.

Enter the loquacious American oil man, like an early version of George Dubya, the sort of guy who in a film would have been played by Clint Eastwood or somesuch, and who has clearly been introduced to shake everyone up and sleep with people he shouldn’t.

The characters line up like an Agatha Christie murder mystery – there’s even the old army man with a toothbrush moustache, and elegant lady wife in her sunhat who actively participates in her own repression. The cast are assembled, and there will obviously be some kind of dramatic interplay between them but it’s not clear until things really get going at the end who’s meant to be the goody and who will be the baddie.

So far so good, but my main problem with the novel was that the early stages were too slow. All those lengthy descriptions of archaeological artefacts made my eyes glaze over like an Assyrian vase. If only some of the drama of those closing scenes could have been relocated this would have been as great as the blurb suggested. ( )
  jayne_charles | Sep 9, 2012 |
Can't really fault this book. Other reviewers seem to dislike the slow pace at the beginning but, for me, this just added to the depth and set up the themes brilliantly. In fact there was a slight danger of slipping into farce when the momentum started to get going in earnest towards the end but this was cleverly avoided. The theme of falsehood and truth was given a thorough workout on many, many different levels - international relations, historical, personal relationships, war, politics (I could go on). One of my favourite reads of the past few years. ( )
  davidhillier | Jan 4, 2012 |
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In this thriller set in the Middle East of 1914, Somerville, a British archaeologist, and his team are excavating a long-buried Assyrian palace when an American geologist from an oil company posing as an archaeologist arrives one day and insinuates himself into Somerville's group. But he's not the only one working undercover to stake a claim on Iraq's rich oil fields.

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Durchschnitt: (3.39)
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