The Discovery of King Tut exhibition is being displayed in selected cities across the country. I had the misfortune to miss it completely when it was in Philadelphia, because I heard about it just before it left town. Way to go! This is a remarkable presentation of perhaps the greatest archeological discovery of the twentieth century. This exhibition is somewhat unusual in that the more than 1000 artifacts are actually reproductions of the treasures discovered by Howard Carter within King Tutankhamun's tomb in November of 1922.
The exhibition presents the actual excavation at the exact
moment of its discovery, and the public can appreciate the magnificence of all
the artifacts without harming the fragile sensitive originals, which are no
longer allowed outside Egypt.
Amelia Peabody and her cohorts may have been there only on
the sidelines in Elizabeth Peters' Tomb of the Golden Bird, but Sally Beauman in The Visitors (Harper/HarperCollins, July 1, 2014) tells the
tale from the point of view of an eyewitness, young Lucy Payne, who has been sent to Egypt
to recover from typhoid fever. Her governess, Miss Mack, accompanies her. Lucy
narrates the story, which includes the events during her stay in Egypt, her return to Cambridge,
vacation in Hampshire and her eventual return to the Valley of the Kings.
One of the first people she meets in Egypt is eight-year-old Francis
Winlock, who is in the Valley of the Kings with her archeologist father. These
girls become fast friends, because they are both staying at the American House, where
many archeologists live. This is 1922, and the mood in the house is electric
because everyone is expecting a rare new discovery.
Lucy and Francis bond nicely, because they are both trying to
understand the adult world and their place in it. Lucy was only 11 years old when she
first visited Egypt, and she spends the rest of her life dreaming about her time
there, and in her old age she reminisces about it. But she revealed her memories
reluctantly to curiosity seekers, because there are some things about those days
she would rather forget.
Beauman weaves together both fact and fiction, as she
incorporates real people in her story. Howard Carter is the well-known archeologist
whose claim to fame was the discovery of the long-looked-for burial site of
Tutankhamun, and Frances' father Herbert Winlock was a real American archaeologist and field curator of the New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art's excavations near Luxor. Some of the lesser archeologists
involved in the dig are represented, as well as the foreman, Ahmed Girigar.
The King Tut
exhibition is in Kansas City for the summer, and then it will move on to San
Diego. I am not sure where it goes after that, but if it comes back my way I
won't miss it again.
While you are mentally in
Africa, you might consider a side trip to British East Africa. In the early part
of the last century, it was at first sight a place of extraordinary beauty; that is, before the inequalities and iniquities of the human conditions come to light.
Annamaria Alfieri's African tale, Strange Gods (Minotaur, June 24, 2014), is a novel that
will please fans of Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa and Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika as well as the small gem of a TV series about a policeman in Kenya, Heat of the Sun.
In England, Justin Tolliver would merely be the second son of
an earl, but fortunately for him he is excited and thrilled by Africa and he wants
to make a life there. Farming, the normal livelihood
of the expats in the area, is out of the question because he has little money,
so he takes a job as a police officer.
His job is made difficult by the fact
that there are rules
for the British and different ones for the Africans, but he settles in well and
he even meets a girl who attracts him. She is Vera McIntosh, a young Scottish
girl who has also come to love Africa. She came to Africa with her family and an uncle, Dr. Josiah Pennyman, who
has been forced to leave Scotland because he had wandering hands that he laid
too often on his female patients.
Strange Gods is the
first in a new mystery series, which entices us with the beauty and peril of
the wilds of Africa, and set in the colonial days that are complicated by the imposition
of a foreign culture on an indigenous people.
this world tour of summer reading is going to take me to Spain; Barcelona in
particular. Last summer I was reading The
Summer of Dead Toys, by Antonio Hill, which ended in a cliffhanger, and I have
been eagerly waiting for the next in the series. I don't have to wait much longer. The Good Suicides (translated from the Spanish by Laura McGloughlin; Crown, June 17,
2014) will be out soon.
Transplanted Argentine Inspector Héctor Salgado, as acerbic
as ever, is suffering through a cold snap in Barcelona. His wife is still
missing and Leire Castro, his partner, is on maternity leave. He is assigned to
a case in which all the senior staff of the Alemany Cosmetics Company have returned from a team-building retreat in a remote country house and received a disturbing email with the strange message, "Never Forget." Then, these
same people begin committing suicide, one by one. The clock is ticking, as Salgado rushes to unlock the puzzle
that is causing these young executives to choose death over life. On the other
hand, Leire is bored and continues to try and solve the case of the missing wife––and
ends up causing more problems than she solves.
Hill tells the stories from various points of view and then zigzags
through twists and turns that will keep your pulse pounding. I
have mixed feelings, because the saga closes again with an ending that leaves the
reader up in the air so that we have to wait another year for some resolutions.
My last selection today is not reachable by any cruise ship
because, even though the locale is the USA, it is a different world.
Chris Bohjalian's Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Doubleday, July 8, 2014) takes us back to a year ago, when there was a
meltdown in a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Emily Shepard was a 16-year-old almost-senior in high school the day Reactor Number One exploded. Both of her parents worked at the reactor, and both were killed. What made this disaster even worse for Emily was that the
disaster might have been Emily's father's fault. She worries that he might have
Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes, the
rivers and forests were destroyed and what isn't destroyed is at least contaminated.
Since it happened on a school day, all the students were bused to a safe zone,
where they would wait to picked up by any remaining family members.
Emily feels that as the daughter of the most reviled man in
America, her life is in danger. She sneaks away from the evacuation site and
makes it to Burlington. Here, she finds refuge among the homeless and lives
in an igloo made of garbage bags.
In order to keep her identity secret, she takes on a new persona and survives by stealing. Her
solace in this terrible time is the works of Emily Dickinson, which are balm to
her aching soul. Eventually she makes a few friends, but she realizes that she
can't outrun her past and can't hide forever, so she needs a plan. She has
to decide between suicide and survival.
This story is a bit of an emotional roller-coaster and it
will make you happy that it's summer in our world––and we can use garbage bags
for summer detritus and not building materials.
I have a few more good summer reads to tell you about in a
few days. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy more Material Witness suggestions.