“The Visitors” by Sally Beauman

imageI had a realisation this morning. I was lying in bed, contemplating whether to watch some NCIS or read The Visitors before actually getting up and the thought of reading more of The Visitors filled me with dread. Life’s too short to spend it reading books that you dread picking up, so I have decided to forgo finishing this particular book. Even though my mum was the one who lent it to me.

This book was filled with so much promise. It is “faction”, a mix of fiction and fact. The story centres around the discovery of Tutankamun’s tomb in the 20s and the ripple effect it had on our protagonist, Lucy Payne, in the present day.
I say “centres” but I was almost 200 hundred pages into the book and there was no mention of the hook t=on which the blurb focuses. Nothing about Tutankhamun or the mummy’s curse or anything remotely interesting. The first two hundred pages consists of eleven-year-old Lucy exploring what has already been excavated, dancing along the edges of big scandals that she was too young to understand (and therefore we readers miss out because Lucy can’t tell us what she doesn’t know), and the mentioning of some big secret that doesn’t actually sound that interesting. And the modern day flashbacks? There was no point to them by this point. No new information, nothing to explain why we cared about Lucy in the present day.

I understand that I did not finish this book, and that my opinion cannot be fully formed as a result, but 200 pages in? Beauman needed to give us something more than the possibility of drama. Something dramatic needed to happen. And yes, there was a death. A murder, in fact. But it was handled in a way that made me think that the murder was simply to add sorely needed drama. But the author bungled it so much that any drama Poppy’s death would have given us was lost in a mire of awkward sentences.

The fact that The Visitors incorporated people who actually existed as well as fictional characters could have been amazing, if Beauman didn’t rely on the reader’s prior knowledge for character differentiation. None of the characters were overly different from each other. I kept mixing up the wives, the nurses, and, most importantly, Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter. This should not have happened. The only characters that were easier to tell apart from each other were the fictional ones. And this is a rookie mistake. Writing non-fiction requires more effort than fiction because you have to make the real feel realistic, which is harder than it sounds. A writer can’t rely on the reader to know things about the characters just because they happen to be real. Beauman did this all the time and as a result, she failed her story.

I really can’t bring myself to “review” this book anymore, simply for the fact that I was so disappointed in it. Not as disappointed as I was in A Fatal Tide, but still fairly disappointed. I’m not even going to give this book any stars. It doesn’t deserve any. All you need to know is that this book is forever marked:

D.N.F.

 

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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