Week 12: “Land of Marvels”

I don’t often review books I don’t like, but you might like this one and not have heard of it before. So here goes.

Barry Unsworth’s novels “Land of Marvels” is about a failing archaeologist desperate to find something of great value in time to stop the German railway headed straight at his site. He has the misfortune to be digging for an Assyrian palace in what Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” calls Mess-Opotamia. Yes, the territory that will become Iraq.

You might ask why the Germans are building a railway across the Ottoman Empire in the spring of 1914. Hmm, what does Iraq have that another country would have wanted … oh, yeah, oil. The plot is cluttered with characters I didn’t like: the archaeologist, his cold wife, his lovely young intern and an American who arrives out of nowhere, pretending to be an archaeologist.

But if you are intrigued by watching a fringe of the Ottoman Empire start to fray, “Land of Marvels” might be just the ticket.

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