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The Ruby in Her Navel (2006)

af Barry Unsworth

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
4021047,401 (3.42)83
Historisk roman fra Sicilien på korstogenes tid i det 12. århundrede om en ung normanner ved kongens hof og hans kærlighed til to vidt forskellige kvinder, den ene kristen og den anden muslim, hvilket gør ham til offer for intriger og forræderi.
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» Se også 83 omtaler

Viser 1-5 af 10 (næste | vis alle)
I enjoyed this a great deal. It was an experience, not just a story and a telling, but all of that and more - a world, a mindset, an exploration - and deeply satisfying all up.

The first thing that grabbed me was the strength of the first-person narrator. There's a deep and stark and involved style to his voice that helps seat the book in its time and place (more about this later) but also establishes the novel firmly as Thurstan-telling-his-story. I have endless impatience with books that a first-person without a reason - i.e. why and how is this person telling me their story? - but this one does it flat out with what appears to be bald-faced honesty, that later gains a layer of knowing extra meaning (which I love).

And through the telling, the reader comes to understand intrinsically - so much more deeply than merely being told - some aspects of the 12th-century Mediterranean that underpin the book: that abstract thought is underdeveloped, and the concept of visualising and imagining one close to magic; that this is a world in which simplicity and complexity war, or at least overlap; and that while it could be said that the Dark Ages are ending, there has never been such hate as is now welling up.

Amidst all of this, I found the entwined stories of political intrigue and Thurstan's emotional getting-of-wisdom to be deeply satisfying, in that way I like best where things reveal to have been just what I thought, but even more so and with added twists I had not seen coming. And while I had some slight distresses about the way Alicia was depicted at the end of the day, Nesrin was pretty magnificent. ( )
  cupiscent | Aug 3, 2019 |
Readable, but not as gripping as I hoped it would be. It's an interesting fictional excursion into Norman Sicily, but I found it difficult to build up any kind of emotional attachment to the story or characters. ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Dec 8, 2017 |
I can only join in the praise for this fine Unsworth novel. He produces the most intricate plots in such well-researched historical settings. A parallel with contemporary world affairs makes this novel even more worth the effort of reading it.
  ivanfranko | Sep 10, 2016 |
This book by the fine historical novelist Barry Unsworth is set in 1149 Palermo, Sicily, where power struggles between East and West have left King Roger hard pressed to maintain his throne. Both the Pope and the Bishop of Rome refuse to recognize his rule, and Conrad Hohenstaufen (ruler of the west) and Manuel Comnenus (ruler of the east) are threatening to invade Sicily to secure their powers. Palermo has always been tolerant to various ethnic communities, but a Christian group is making false accusations against Muslims, Jews, and other "outsiders" to take over power.

Thurstan Beauchamp narrates this story. He is a young man still, the son of a Norman knight and a Saxon mother. He works in the Diwan of Control, the central financial office at the palace, where his employer is Yusuf Ibn Mansur, a Muslim man with political savvy and of unimpeachable honesty who is willing to help Thurstan become influential if he can avoid falling into one of the dangerous political games the various factions are playing against each other. Traveling throughout Europe as "Purveyor of Pleasures and Shows," Thurstan finds a group of five Yazidis, including Nesrin, a belly dancer with uncommon talent, and immediately hires them to come to Palermo to perform for the king. He is drawn to Nesrin's great beauty and allure, but things take yet another turn when he meets again with the Lady Alicia on the same trip, once his great love when he was still a boy and she then just a girl also. Now she has returned from the land of Jerusalem as a widow of considerable wealth, and seems just as taken with Thurstan, who finds his love for her has not abated over the years.

Further complicating matters, we learn early on that Thurstan's most cherished dream has been to become a knight and fight in the crusades, as his father has done before him, though this opportunity was taken away from him just when it seemed about to be realised. Now with Lady Alicia's return on the scene, many opportunities beckon. The novel builds up at a moderate pace, all the while filled with period details which inform us about aspects of daily life in 12th century Palermo. Thurstan, narrating in the first person from the vantage point of a period after the events have taken place, is a personable main character, whom we cannot help but empathise with though he makes many grave gaffes and mistakes, and much as his naivety and youth show he has yet much to learn, we see the events though his eyes before he had gained the advantage of hindsight, so that the reader is offered only glimpses of the whole, until a complex mystery is revealed.

A jewel of a book which I can't wait to reread to pick up on all the fine intricate details I may have missed the first time. I also loved Andrew Sachs' narration in the audio version. A well-earned five stars for this gem. ( )
1 stem Smiler69 | Nov 17, 2014 |
About a month ago Barry Unsworth died and following a conversation on a LT thread I decided that I should read something of his as he was an author I had not come across before.

Twelfth century Sicily is a multicultural society — King Roger is the Norman ruler but his subjects and advisers include Muslims, Jews and Christians (both Catholic and Orthodox). Unfortunately the Second Crusade has just come to its unfortunate, for the Catholics, end and tensions are rising. Our narrator for this story is Thurstan Beauchamp, son of a Norman knight, but thwarted in his desire to become a knight himself. He has ended up working in one of the king's ministries working for a Muslim. He is idealistic and slightly naive. Into his life come two women - the dancer Nesrin and his first love Alicia, who is recently widowed.

This is very good historical fiction. I liked the way Unsworth built his picture of the times. I might have wanted to kick Thurstan sometimes as he doesn't seem to be able to see what is happening around him. But, for me, that is one of the signs of a good book as I wanted his story to come out in a positive way.

I'll definitely be reading more of Barry Unsworth's work in the future. I am just sorry I didn't discover his books before his death. ( )
1 stem calm | Jul 9, 2012 |
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tilføjet af doomjesse | RedigerNew York Times, Jason Goodwin (Nov 12, 2006)
 
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Historisk roman fra Sicilien på korstogenes tid i det 12. århundrede om en ung normanner ved kongens hof og hans kærlighed til to vidt forskellige kvinder, den ene kristen og den anden muslim, hvilket gør ham til offer for intriger og forræderi.

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