‘The Visitors’ by Sally Beauman is a historical fiction novel set mainly in 1922, though also sometimes during the present as the main character, Lucy, reflects on what happened during her time in Egypt. The cover of this novel must be remarked on, as it feels like a work of art in the strictest sense of the description – and it perfectly captures the exotic feel of the novel within.
Recovering from typhoid which managed to take her mother and destroy her father, Lucy and her escort Miss Mack are in Egypt during the time of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb – but it’s the adult world that she and her new friend Frances catch glimpses of, which is more interesting. Eager and desperate for a friend as Lucy feels alone since losing her family (though her father still lives, she has more or less lost him in all ways that count) and also for being ill for so long, Frances couldn’t have come into Lucy’s life at a better time.
At the start of the novel there is a helpful list of characters with notes of which are fictional and leaving, clearly, the people who are part of history, such as Howard Carter and the Earl of Carnarvon, some of those who discovered Tutankhamun after many years of work.
This is an engaging novel because of this, a historical fiction novel that is particularly strong in the historical frame of mind, bringing the events firmly as part of the book and showing that the author must have done extensive research using diaries and accounts from the people themselves – a brave move, and one delivered excellently.
The writing is most suited for the theme, adding to the texture of the time Beauman is portraying. This is a solid read. It’s put-downable, but only so you can properly absorb the world she is able to spirit you away to with ease – especially the sections on Egypt. This is a worthy novel for those who are interested in Egypt and one that I would certainly recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction.