Set in the Middle Ages during the brief yet glittering rule of the Norman kings, The Ruby in Her Navel is a tale in which the conflicts of the past portend the present. The novel opens in Palermo, in which Latin and Greek, Arab and Jew live together in precarious harmony. Thurstan Beauchamp, the Christian son of a Norman knight, works for Yusuf, a Muslim Arab, in the palace's central finance office, a job which includes the management of blackmail and bribes, and the gathering of secret information for the king. But the peace and prosperity of the kingdom is being threatened, internally as well as externally. Known for his loyalty but divided between the ideals of chivalry and the harsh political realities of his tumultuous times, Thurstan is dispatched to uncover the conspiracies brewing against his king. During his journeys, he encounters the woman he loved as a youth; and the renewed promise of her love, as well as the mysterious presence of an itinerant dancing girl, sends him on a spiritual odyssey that forces him to question the nature of his ambition and the folly of uncritical reverence for authority. With the exquisite prose and masterful narrative drive that have earned him widespread acclaim, Barry Unsworth transports the reader to a distant past filled with deception and mystery, and whose racial, tribal, and religious tensions are still with us today. Reading group guide included.
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""The Ruby in Her Navel" is captivating, sensuous, and immensely moving. It helps us understand our own contemporary world; a rare achievement. This is Barry Unsworth, the master of resonant historical fiction, on top form."--Jim Crace "Barry Unsworth brilliantly peoples one of the most dazzling and least known chapters of European history; I loved this book."--John Julius Norwich "Unsworth's subtle prose conjures up an authentically realized medieval world in which one's nationality and religion overshadow everything, and peace is only an illusion. The twisting plotline, heavy with foreshadowing, conceals as much as it reveals in this heartrending tale, which can be read either as an exceptional historical novel or a modern parable on the dangers of blind patriotism.""--Booklist" ""The Ruby in Her Navel" is a richly imagined novel of the Middle Ages, filled with questions of race, God, and fidelity, from the Booker Prize-winning Unsworth...Unsworth's luscious history is ripe territory for a dialogue on the ever-present struggle against intolerance, a seemingly inevitable human frailty."--"Kirkus Reviews" "Barry Unsworth is one of the three most important British novelists at work today."--Richard Eder, "The New York Times" "Unsworth's writing is unrivaled...His novels are close to perfect in an imperfect literary world."--Ruth Rendell "As with the novels of Brian Moore or the poetry of Larkin, there's very little the reviewer needs to say about Unsworth's fiction, except: read it."--David Sexton, "The Spectator"About the Author:
Barry Unsworth was born in 1930 in a mining village in Durham. He has spent a number of years in the Eastern Mediterranean area, has taught English in Athens and Istanbul, and now lives in Italy. He is the author of many novels, including Pascali's Island, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1980 and has been filmed; Stone Virgin (1985); Sacred Hunger, which was joint winner of the 1992 Booker Prize; Morality Play, which was shortlisted for the 1995 Booker Prize; After Hannibal, Losing Nelson and The Songs of the Kings.
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