22 July 2014

Today's Read: The Visitors by Sally Beauman

What if you were among the last living people to have witnessed one of history's greatest moments? Would you talk to the press, stripping off the patina of romance, and tell the world how it really was? This is the decision the elderly Lucy Payne must make when a man asks to interview her for a BBC/HBO documentary about the discovery of King Tut's tomb.

When I had been in Cairo a week, I was taken to the pyramids; it was there I saw Frances for the first time. It was January 1922, and Miss Mackenzie, in loco parentis, my guardian for our travels in Egypt, planned our visit with great care. She believed that if I could see the pyramids, "One of the greatest wonders of the ancient world, remember, Lucy, dear," and see them in the most powerful way possible—at sunrise—they would effect a change. They would stimulate; they would enthrall; they would snap me back to life, and persuade me to re-engage with the world. For six days she had postponed this visit: I wasn't yet strong enough. On the seventh day, the great moment finally arrived.
The Visitors by Sally Beauman (HarperCollins / Harper, 2014 [U.S. edition], p. 3; uncorrected proofs)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Egypt (Cairo, Luxor), 1920s; England (London, Cambridge), 1920s and 2002
  • Circumstances: When eleven-year-old Lucy is sent to Cairo to recover from typhoid fever, she and her guardian stay in Shepheard's Hotel, home to visiting archaeologists from all over the world. There she befriends Frances Winlock and learns about the excavations in the Valley of the Kings. Decades later, Lucy is approached by an American documentary filmmaker and must decide what she is willing to tell the world.
  • Characters: Lucy (both young and old); famous archaeologists and their families, such as Howard Carter, Harry Burton, and Herbert Winlock; local staff; fictional characters and historic figures involved in Egyptian antiquities
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • Why I want to read it: As many of you know, I was an anthropologist in my youth and have maintained my strong interest in the field. Plus who isn't still fascinated with Howard Carter and the discovery of the King Tut's tomb? I know the story from an academic point of view and have read several fictional accounts of the archaeology of the Valley of the Kings; I can't wait to read Beauman's take on the discovery.
  • What I'm anticipating: Even in the 1920s, there was controversy surrounding Carter and his methods, the invasion of foreign archaeologists and antiquities collectors, and Egypt's desire to maintain control over its own historical record. The individuals involved had differing thoughts on who had rights to the artifacts and how archaeological digs should be conducted. Complicating matters, the scientists themselves had personal issues: too much alcohol, class and race prejudices, and dishonesty. I am hoping Beauman delves into some of these issues.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 7/22/14, 6:54 AM  

I would definitely read more, as I've been curious about this one. enjoy.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 7/22/14, 7:35 AM  

This sounds so interesting and I loved the writing of the intro. I'd keep reading.

bermudaonion 7/22/14, 8:55 AM  

I don't think I would talk to the press. This sounds like my kind of historical fiction!

Harvee 7/22/14, 9:09 AM  

I have to get to this book this summer, in between book tours!
Book Dilettante

Anonymous,  7/22/14, 9:53 AM  

Egypt and King Tut's tomb! That has hooked me. I love reading about archeologists and Peters' Amelia Peabody series is a favorite of mine.

Mine today is a novelization of the original Beauty and the Beast series from the 1980s. http://wp.me/pZnGI-9M

Laurel-Rain Snow 7/22/14, 10:16 AM  

What an interesting story! I minored in anthropology in college, so I have an interest in these things, too, although working in the field, as you did, would be so much more fascinating.

Margaret Mead spoke to our college during one of the semesters I attended. This gives away a lot about my age, doesn't it? LOL

I also enjoy Beauman's writing.

Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

Faith Hope and Cherrytea 7/22/14, 10:26 AM  

I'm intrigued! read on and pls share your responses...
Mine's here

Claudia {Sparrowhawk} 7/22/14, 11:10 AM  

I would keep reading; I enjoy historical fiction/non-fiction. Thanks for sharing! :)

If I Stay | Gayle Forman

JaneGS 7/22/14, 11:12 AM  

I would most definitely keep reading--I love the setting and premise. Very, very promising opening.

JC Jones 7/22/14, 11:17 AM  

That is an interesting concept. I would keep reading.

JC Jones 7/22/14, 11:17 AM  

That is an interesting concept. I would keep reading.

Linda @ (un)Conventional Bookworms 7/22/14, 11:19 AM  

Oh wow, this sounds very interesting! Thanks for sharing, Beth.

Here's my TT post for this week. Happy reading.

Sandra Nachlinger 7/22/14, 11:28 AM  

This sounds like a fascinating story. What secrets does she know? Will seeing the pyramids change her life? How? The excerpt has me wanting more -- right now! I'll be watching for the release of this one.
My Teaser is from KEEPING FAITH.

kayerj 7/22/14, 11:43 AM  

I'd keep reading. The intro and the cover remind me of the old Victoria Holt books. enjoy your book. kelley—the road goes ever ever on

Maya Love 7/22/14, 12:01 PM  

I would read on. The opener is interesting and I like stories set in Egypt.

Anonymous,  7/22/14, 12:28 PM  

I would definitely read this and enjoy it. In college I majored in sociology and minored in anthropology and love all things in this field. Thanks for sharing. Will put on my list.

Tea 7/22/14, 1:04 PM  

I have been looking at this title. Thanks for giving the background. Didn't know it involved King Tut.

Beth Hoffman 7/22/14, 1:47 PM  

I have this book on my iPad and I'm looking forward to reading it. For all my life I've had an ongoing curiosity about anthropology; I didn't know you were once an anthropologist! We have LOTS to discuss at Happydale!

Literary Feline 7/22/14, 2:23 PM  

I have seen this book around and been wondering about it. I hope it is good!

Anonymous,  7/22/14, 3:37 PM  

Sounds intriguing!

Heather 7/22/14, 4:59 PM  

What a beautiful passage - I'm adding this one to my list. Enjoy! Mine: Mr. Monk Gets on Board

Unknown 7/22/14, 5:12 PM  

I love that you've shared this. I've seen the book, and kept moving as I wasn't sure I wanted to read about the pyramids, but now, seeing your post I realize it's much more. I may have to give this one a go. Thanks for sharing.

Catherine @ Book Club Librarian 7/22/14, 7:55 PM  

Sounds like an intriguing adventure tale. Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Unknown 7/22/14, 9:11 PM  

Wow, that sounds like a lot of build up for seeing the pyramids, I hope the character found it worth the wait! My Teaser.

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