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This book was probably the saddest I have ever listened to - The Street by McCarthy being a close second.
The story is that of 11-year old Lucy who loses her mother in a typhoid infection that leaves her on death' door. To distract her, her father, being an absent, disparaging, misanthropic Cambridge scholar, ships her off to Egypt with a nurse/governess in the year 1922.
In Egypt, Lucy meets Frances, daughter of an American egyptologist. Lucy is drawn into the circle around Carter and Lord Carnarvon...
80 years onwards, a tired Lucy is being interviewed for a tv series on Tut. She reminisces about her life and the story skips from her life then and her life now.
I've said it once and I'll say it again: this book has made me cry buckets. I wept. It is not chick-lit, nor uplifting as, say, Major Pettigrew. But it describes life as it is. In this case, a life full of losses, deaths, departures and sadness.
Lucy is eye-witness to one of the greatest archeological finds of all times, and through her (flawlessly researched) eyes I too was witnessing the now lost Egypt of a hundred years ago. She isn't one of the persons on the center stage, but she is there, one the fringes, watching and observing. It made me long to go there, to glimpse what is left.
I had my issues with the story as well: Lucy practically never speaks or comments, so I never really got a feeling of her. She remained a canvas for the other people. Somebody to be spoken to, to have adventures with, yet she herself remains strangely inexistent.
The other thing, kind of spoilery: The last hours of the book wrap up the first third of her life, adding more losses, more tragedy, and I was left to wonder how anyone could live on like that for another 60 years. It is not being mentioned what she did in this time, but it can't have been happy, or Lucy wouldn't have been the person she was at the age of ninety-something.
Even so, full five stars for making me feel as depressed and hopeless as rarely before.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I didn’t know what to expect but was rewarded with over 20 hours of captivating story-telling. It’s an excellent historical novel that gives a revealing account of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb through the eyes of a fictional character, Lucy Payne, whose imagined life-story adds emotional depth to the book.
The book starts with an aged Lucy being quizzed for details by a film-maker preparing a documentary about the momentous discovery, but soon reverts to 1922 with an 11 year old Lucy witnessing the discovery. Her first-hand account brings to life those actually involved in the search and the conditions under which the archeologists worked. I was drawn into Lucy’s imagined life as she matured into adulthood and her path crossed over the decades with those she met in Egypt. It’s a bitter-sweet story of triumph and tragedy that captured my imagination and left me sorry that the book ended.
The author is adept at creating atmosphere and character and is well-served by the talented narrator who made me feel I was witnessing events and hearing conversations.
23 of 25 people found this review helpful