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Friday, 15 December 2006

Barry Unsworth's The Ruby in Her Navel: A Novel of Love and Intrigue Set in the 12th Century is reviewed by books editor Frank Wilson in The Philadelphia Enquirer.

Unsworth seems to be the perennial also-ran of British fiction. Born in 1930, he was awarded the 1992 Booker Prize along with another contender and has been short-listed for that prize several times over the years. I only got my hands on one of his books last weekend, at the 2MBS book and record bazaar. Still in my TBR pile or, rather, on the top shelf of my new bookcase. I purchased 35 books last week, and this one, The Song of the Kings, is also a historical novel.

Wilson states his case efficiently:

The emphasis here is less on action than on character and motivation, and the tempo overall is mostly andante moderato, not allegro vivace. The measured pace is essential, though, since this is a tale about how one can walk very deliberately - though altogether unintentionally - toward misery and mayhem.

It's difficult to know what sort of pleasures Unsworth offers the reader. This book seems, from Wilson's review, to be decidedly literary. Although historical fiction has become quite popular in recent years, Unsworth's profile seems not to have been noticeably lifted. This is no doubt due to his rep as a writer of literature, rather than the more popular genre of historical fiction.

In any case, I look forward to reading the book now in my collection.

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