One of my surprise favorite books in 2013 was Sally Beauman’s “Dark Angel.” Suspenseful and twisty, I couldn’t put it down. Thus maybe I had the wrong expectations for her latest novel, “The Visitors.” More historical fiction than thriller, this novel is a must for Egyptology buffs or anyone else who is fascinated by the pyramids and their secrets. The book is told from the point of view of Lucy Payne, who we first meet at age 12, traveling in Egypt in the company of a caretaker following the death of her mother. Recovering from a bout of typhoid, she soon finds herself mingling with some of the most well-known figures associated with Egyptology – Howard Carter, Lord Carnavon, and Herbert Winlock, the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, whose daughter becomes a lifelong friend of Lucy’s.
As in her other novels, Beauman weaves her plot lines across time- from the past to the present, and manages to work into story one of the most famous archeological discoveries of the 20th century (hmm, can you guess what this might be?). It is clear that Beauman has spent a lot of time researching the period and the historical facts about which she writes. The parts of the book I most enjoyed were by far those set in Egypt- Beauman’s writing easily transports the reader to another time and place. I struggled with the storylines set in the present. Similarly, I loved the sections of the novel that had themes of mystery/discovery, and would have been okay with less of the coming of age chapters.
Overall a solid read, both figuratively and literally (“The Visitors” clocks in at over 500 page). While the quality of Beauman’s writing never falters, her story does not have the same urgency to it that I enjoyed in “Dark Angel.” Probably best for reading when you have the time to dedicate to it (think a wonderful beach vacation, and less your daily commute), it is a definite for those that have enjoyed Beauman’s other works or love novels about Egypt.
Available for purchase from Amazon.com.
xo The Book Bird
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this novel courtesy of the publisher.