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madelineovando.com/1046.php Feb 02, Algernon Darth Anyan rated it really liked it Shelves: The Land of Marvels here is northern Mesopotamia, on the eve of World War I, a place rich in history and rich in mineral resources. Empires have fought over it for millennia, and looking at today events they are still fighting over it. What struck me about this story is a sense of fatalism, of ants caught in a storm, going about their personals obsessions while the world around them burst in flames.

Even love, in several disguises, fails to overcome an atmosphere of unavoidable fate. In this presentation the novel reminded me strongly of Joseph Conrad, either in his far East novels or in his Secret Agent book. Espionage actually plays a strong role in the plot development, with major nations engaged in backroom deals and subverting each other in the struggle to subvert Turkey control over the region and to grab a bigger share of the spoils - again reflecting through history the actuality of "real" politics in the region today.

Beside politics and exploration for oil - presented in great detail - the novel focuses on archeologycal digging for lost empires, plus a cautionary tale about dreams of economic or military dominion.

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Barry Unsworth is one of my favorite authors when it comes to style of presentation, and Land of Marvels is no exception with poetic language, extensive research of subject matter and sharp observations of human psyche. This being a modern novel, it provides its own commentary, or deconstruction, in the extended analysis of motivations and symbolism. Here is an example taken from the book, on the theme of idealism versus pragmatism: "But John is a sensitive man, and it must be distressing to be living at a time when people like him - and like you too - people trying to put things together, make sense of things, add to the sense of human community, are facing a contrary spirit of dismemberment and destructiveness that is terribly strong and pervasive.

It is a kind of brutality that goes under the name of realism, and it is alive and well in Britain. You can call it the spirit of commerce, or the spirit of empire, or the elan vital. In the early part of the 20th century many foreign interests intersected in the Middle East. Barry Unsworth sketches with preternatural skill a British archeologist fruitlessly toiling for years over a dig he finds it increasingly difficult to sustain financially.

The stresses added by German railroad and American petroleum contractors encroaching on his stake which he is desperate to believe will yield results shortly is too real for comfort. The years leading up to the Great War in Europe were In the early part of the 20th century many foreign interests intersected in the Middle East. The years leading up to the Great War in Europe were prime for many men of industry, particularly for those in petroleum prospecting.

Unsworth shares stories of how those times might have looked, using historical events to bracket his imaginings. View 1 comment. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be 'meh'. That's probably not even an actual word. If I had to write more it would probably be something like: meh, meh, meh.

I couldn't care less about the characters, and got myself thinking that if Unsworth killed everybody on the next page I wouldn't care at all. Which is actually what he eventually did and so this book ended. Let's move on. View all 5 comments.


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Description: In , an English archaeologist called Somerville is fulfilling a lifelong dream - to direct an excavation in the desert of Mesopotamia. Yet forces beyond his control threaten his work. The Great War is looming, and various interest groups - Turkish, German, English and American - are vying for control over the land and its strategic and economic prizes. The Germans are securing trade routes with a new railway; a major in the Royal Engineers is working undercover, secretly mapping Description: In , an English archaeologist called Somerville is fulfilling a lifelong dream - to direct an excavation in the desert of Mesopotamia.

The Germans are securing trade routes with a new railway; a major in the Royal Engineers is working undercover, secretly mapping for the British the areas rich in oil; the Bedouin Jehar takes what he can from his new paymasters. The greatest idealist is Somerville, whose intention is to discover and preserve the land's ancient treasures.

As he weaves these stories together in a powerful narrative, Unsworth provides a brilliant commentary on imperial ambition in the Middle East, and an acute historical perspective on the land that became modern Iraq. Opening: He knew they would come that day or the next.