With The Visitors, Sally Beauman (Rebecca's Tale) transports readers back to Egypt in the 1920s, when explorers, archeologists and historians searched for uncovered tombs of Egyptian pharaohs and the riches they were thought to contain--a time of mystery and discovery for which no parallel exists today. The Visitors weaves together the imagined observations of Lucy, an 11-year-old girl traveling to Egypt with her guardian, and real historical characters, including Howard Carter and Lord Carnavon, two British men credited with the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb.
Much of Beauman's novel is told in the elderly Lucy's recollections of her childhood travels, combined with her memories of her family life at the time. While the tales of faraway Egypt are far more interesting than the family politics of Lucy's life, the two narratives combine to present a full picture of Lucy and how her life has been shaped by the events she witnessed abroad. Her naïveté as a young girl stands in stark contrast to her full understanding of the enormity of the discovery of King Tut's tomb--and the secrets that surrounded that momentous event--as an adult.
The Visitors is large and ambitious, covering subjects as disparate as the legacy of grave robbers in ancient Egypt and the political tension between the local government and foreign archeologists. Though the great secret to which Lucy's story builds could potentially be lost in the sea of recollections about her family life, keen readers will find suspense, excitement and ambition in Beauman's nuanced, intriguing story.
The Visitors | Sally Beauman | Harper | Hardcover | July 2014