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    The Visitors (Paperback) By (author) Sally Beauman


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    DescriptionUnder 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.

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    Marianne Vincent The Visitors is the eighth novel by British-born author, Sally Beauman. Employing the narration of eleven-year-old Lucy Payne, a recent survivor of a bout of typhoid fever that claimed her American mother, Beauman plunges the reader deep into 1920's Egypt as it stands on the brink of Howard Carter's amazing discovery: King Tutankhamun's tomb. As her father, a classicist Cambridge don is unable to cope with a young daughter, Lucy has been brought to Egypt by her guardian, Miss Mack, who is convinced it will help her to regain her zest for life. Encountering the British and American ex-pat community, she meets the rather precocious eight-year-old Frances Winlock, daughter of an American archaeologist, as well as ten-year-old Lady Rose Strathaven and her little brother, Petey (Viscount Hurst), children of the outrageous Poppy d'Erlanger, thus making lifelong friends, and finally starts to have some fun. Lucy's narration follows events during her stay in Egypt, her return to Cambridge, vacation in Hampshire and her eventual return to the Valley of the Kings at the time of the great discovery. Occasionally, the narration switches to ninety-two-year-old Lucy, in her home in Highgate, London, looking back on her life, partly prompted by young Ben Fong, a documentary maker, and visits with the now elderly Lady Rose. In her old age, Lucy finds that "Grief's talons are never sheathed, and its patient capacity to wound is unremitting". Beauman's novel takes the dry facts of the tomb's discovery and brings them to life by inserting fictional characters and dialogue, along with a bit of drama and intrigue. The almost four pages of character summary (both real and fictional) will be much appreciated by readers, and the thirteen pages on people, places and provenance adds further to the interesting facts covered in the novel. Beauman's pace is very measured and some readers may find it a little slow; the narrator is sometimes frustratingly unforthcoming, although this may simply be a device to build the story. Beauman expertly renders the feel of the early twentieth century in England and Egypt. She touches on several controversial topics: the ownership of the tomb relics; the curse of the tomb; the effect of tourism on the tombs. An interesting read. by Marianne Vincent

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