09 June 2014

Why do mummies not tell secrets?

They keep everything under wraps :-D 

This week I'm writing up the groups review of The Visitors by Sally Beauman, the reason for the terrible joke becomes apparent in paragraph 2.

Under the tablecloth, Frances's hand reached for mine and clasped it. I knew what it meant, that clasp and the mischievous grateful glance that accompanied it: it meant I was thanked, that there were secrets here. I could accept that. I too had secrets - who doesn't?

Sent abroad to Egypt in 1922 to recover from the typhoid that killed her mother, eleven-year-old Lucy is caught up in the intrigue and excitement that surrounds the obsessive hunt for Tutankhamun's tomb. As she struggles to comprehend an adult world in which those closest to her are often cold and unpredictable, Lucy longs for a friend she can love. When she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist, her life is transformed. As the two girls spy on the grown-ups and try to understand the truth behind their evasions, a lifelong bond is formed.
Haunted by the ghosts of her past, the mistakes she made and the secrets she kept, Lucy disinters her past, trying to make sense of what happened all those years ago in Cairo and the Valley of the Kings. And for the first time in her life, she comes to terms with what happened after Egypt, when Frances needed Lucy most.

About Sally Beauman:
Sally Kinsey-Miles was born on 25 July 1944 in Devon, England, UK. She graduated from Girton College, Cambridge (MA in English Literature). She married Christopher Beauman an economist. After graduating, she moved with her husband to the USA, where she lived for three years.  She began her career as a journalist in America, joining the staff of the newly launched New York magazine, of which she became associate editor, and continued to write for it after her return to England. 

Interviewed Alan Howard for the Telegraph Magazine in 1970.  The following year they met again, and the rest is history. After a long partnership Sally and Alan married in 2004. She has one son, James, and one grandchild.

Sally has had a distinguished career as a journalist and critic, she also wrote nine Mills & Boon romances under the pseudonym Vanessa James, before publishing her block-buster novel Destiny in 1987 under her real name.  She is the author of six previous novels, including the acclaimed Rebecca's Tale.
The review...
Normally as a group its quite difficult to summarise all the views and opinions they're normally so varying but in this case it has been quite straightforward.  Generally we found the book to be ok but not particularly exciting with nobody coming down hard on either side of really good or really bad. 
The characters were well drawn however we felt a lot of threads were left not pulling together stories and you get invested in some characters only for them, their story, to fizzle out without much explanation.  We didn't feel the children were believable in that they were attending adult dinner parties and afternoon teas in a time when they were seen and not heard.  Which in turn made the character of Lucy difficult to believable as their was no discernible voice between her younger and older self.
The story itself was ok however we felt that it was only given strength because of the real events and real characters involved, if it was entirely fictional it would have been very weak.  Reflecting the amount of loose threads throughout the story it could be generally quite wordy and descriptive in some areas and only a few lines about a major event in others.  We felt this made it a big book without much substance.
Overall we gave the book a rating of 2.5/3 out of 5, generally ok but we wouldn't recommend it to anyone and would suggest reading a non fiction title instead.

Next month we're reviewing The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin, see you 7pm Wednesday 2nd July or post your reviews/comments below :)

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