NY Times Book Review: Unsworth's "Land of Marvels"


In this New York Times Sunday Book Review of the latest novel by former Iowa Writers' Workshop visiting faculty member Barry Unsworth, "Land of Marvels," reviewer Christopher de Bellaigue uncovers the book's complex and interconnected themes, revealing aspects of the plot in a rich subtlety: "Unsworth’s 21st-century readers inhabit a third stratum. We read 'Land of Marvels' exquisitely aware that the great American empire entered its own crisis as a result of its occupation of the vast territory where Somerville is digging, to which Unsworth affixes its modern name only when tapping out the book’s last, portentous word: Iraq." Bellaigue also describes the work as "dramatic and richly symbolic" and claims "Unsworth assembles his layers with the subtlety you would expect from a renowned, if restrained, historical novelist and Booker Prize winner."

Unsworth was born in Wingate, a mining village in Durham, England. He graduated from the University of Manchester in 1951. He was a visiting literary fellow at the Universities of Durham and Newcastle, a writer-in-residence at Liverpool University in 1985 and a visiting professor at the University of Iowa's Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, winning once in 1992 for the novel Sacred Hunger.


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