Sophia Chrysanthis is initially dazzled when the celebrated German archaeologist, Herr Obermann, comes in search of a Greek bride who can read the works of Homer and assist in his excavations of the city he believes is Ancient Troy. But Obermann's past turns out to be full of skeletons and when a young American arrives to question the archeologist's methods and dies of a mysterious fever, Sophia wonders just how far he will go to protect his vision of Troy. Soon a second, British archeologist arrives, only to fall in love with Sophia, and as their relationship begins to parallel their Ancient Greek counterparts events move towards a gripping and terrible conclusion.
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(197mm x 129mm x 15mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
The life of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822 - 1890) is boldly fictionalized in the industrious British author's latest (The Lambs of London, 2006, etc.).Ackroyd's Schliemann is Heinrich Obermann, who shares his historical counterpart's biography (fortunes made in Europe and America; well-earned reputations for dedication and discipline as well as arrogance), but emerges here as even more of an "Over-Man": an alarming combination of self-taught authority, visionary antiquarian and posturing mountebank. We meet him in Athens, where he weds Sophia Chrysanthis, a brainy beauty who's decades younger. Their subsequent honeymoon is a journey to the village of Hissarlik on Turkey's (western) Aegean coast, where an elaborate "dig" is well underway. Sophia quickly learns that her wedded bliss will consist of being an eager accomplice to her husband's pursuit of immortality - and that he will tolerate no contradiction (whatever weight of authority it bears) in his quest for proof that the matter of the Homeric epics is literally true, and that Homer's Trojans were "Europeans from the north" and not Asians. Those who disagree do not fare well. Obermann's young Russian assistant Leonid (whom he calls "Telemachus"), visiting English clergyman Decimus Harding, the Turkish laborers' overseer Kadri Bey - all provoke Obermann's impatient contempt. And visiting Harvard scholar William Brand, who bluntly disputes the German's claims, fares even worse. The story clips briskly along, powered by Ackroyd's brilliant handling of historical and archaeological detail, gift for lucid phrasing and flair for energetic melodrama. But the novel pushes too many envelopes too far, concluding in a very nearly ludicrous farrago of shocking revelations, narrow escapes and what even Obermann's critics might identify as divine judgment.An entertaining, at times over-the-top historical pastiche, from a veteran yarn-spinner who Knows the Territory. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Peter Ackroyd
Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning historian, biographer, novelist, poet and broadcaster. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography, Thames: Sacred River and London Under; biographies of figures including Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock; and a multi-volume history of England. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.