The Hidden

The Hidden

3.9 14
by Tobias Hill
     
 

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From PEN/Macmillan award-winning novelist and poet Tobias Hill comes The Hidden, a gripping story of a naive newcomer whose arrival at a high-stakes archaeological dig of ancient Spartan ruins unearths long-buried secrets. Interweaving scenes of ancient Sparta with present-day events in a fascinating study of group dynamics, Hill cuts to the heart of theSee more details below

Overview

From PEN/Macmillan award-winning novelist and poet Tobias Hill comes The Hidden, a gripping story of a naive newcomer whose arrival at a high-stakes archaeological dig of ancient Spartan ruins unearths long-buried secrets. Interweaving scenes of ancient Sparta with present-day events in a fascinating study of group dynamics, Hill cuts to the heart of the games people play to stay in control. Written with astonishing grace and power, The Hidden is a novel about secrets and the true cost of fulfilling one’s desires.

Editorial Reviews

Maria Russo
The Hidden is Hill's fourth novel…and like his previous novels, it's an unusual, exhilarating hybrid of high-stakes, propulsive narrative; erudite yet breezy summations of specialized historical data; and strikingly evocative language…the novel's ideas are explored with stylish rigor and a rare boldness made all the more powerful by its surprising lyricism. The setting and many of the themes in The Hidden call to mind Don DeLillo's novel The Names, but where DeLillo suggests a glamour inherent in obfuscation and enigma, Hill dismantles that whole notion.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
British author Hill's fourth novel, a chilly existential thriller, is dazzling in places, but suffers fatal problems of pacing and plausibility. Ben Mercer, a disaffected Oxford classics student, runs off to Greece to escape the fallout of a failed marriage. There, a chance encounter with former colleague Eberhard affords Ben the chance to work on an archeological dig in Sparta, Spartan civilization being Ben's area of expertise (his “Notes Towards a Thesis” on Spartan culture are interspersed throughout the novel and make a fascinating parallel text). Ben receives a frosty reception from Eberhard's secretive group, but after finding deformed skulls at the dig site, participating in a jackal hunt and developing a relationship with the beautiful Natsuko, Ben is accepted and begins to realize his compatriots have a sinister agenda. Hill's use of the thriller structure to make broader commentary about modern life provides many rewarding and intelligent turns, but the plot itself is slow, predicable and, due to the villains' largely unexplored motivations, unsatisfying. The evocations of Greece and historical details of Sparta are excellent, but too much of this novel is muddled or at odds with itself. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Ben Mercer has a penchant for walking away—from his wife, his daughter, and even his Oxford thesis on the history of the Spartans. An archaeologist, he drifts aimlessly toward Athens, where work waiting tables and a room shared with Albanian dishwashers appear to be as much responsibility as he can handle. But a chance encounter with academic rival Eberhard Sauer, who reluctantly admits that he's in Greece to join an excavation at Sparta, arouses enough professional jealousy to light a fire under Ben. Wrangling a position with the close-knit and unwelcoming dig crew, Ben becomes a pawn in a disturbingly sinister game. An affair with the enigmatic Natsuko skews his judgment and compromises his ability to extricate himself from the group when he realizes that they are not what they seem. VERDICT Acclaimed British poet and novelist Hill displays an enviable facility with descriptive language and has certainly researched the politics of ancient and modern Greece. What remains "hidden," however, is the character development necessary to understand the motivation underlying the antisocial behavior of Hill's protagonists. Effective marketing to book groups may encourage readers to give it a go, but it's not essential reading.—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL\
Kirkus Reviews
Ancient and modern Greece meet in this ambitious, slow-paced story of an archaeological dig whose members have a hidden agenda. Hill (The Love of Stones, 2001, etc.) uses as his viewpoint character a 25-year-old archaeologist. Ben Mercer, a postgraduate teacher/student, has spent the last seven years at Oxford. While there, the Englishman married foreign-born Emine; they had one child, Vanessa, before Emine divorced him. Ben still loves his ex-wife and daughter. Feeling like an abject failure he runs off to Greece with no clear goal and finds work at a meat grill in an Athens suburb. He hears of a dig outside Sparta and is hired to join a ragtag bunch of "shovelmonkeys" working for an American director. A core group of five appears to have a secret they refuse to share with their director or Ben. In this they are no different from the original Spartans, who thrived on secrecy while terrorizing their helots. We learn this from cogent academic notes interpolated through a narrative that constantly draws parallels. "We're the real Spartans now," says one shovelmonkey. Ben, whose greatest need is for camaraderie, feels increasingly frustrated, though he finds relief (rather too easily) in the arms of Japanese Natsuko. Readers will also be frustrated. The talented Hill is fizzing with ideas, but they're only half-executed. Why doesn't the collapse of Ben's marriage get fuller treatment? Why is Max, the ringleader of a complicated scheme, kept in the background? The account of group dynamics meanders on until Ben is let into the club and learns the secret. It's shocking but quite far-fetched and comes way too late. Just as disappointing, Ben gains no insight into the source of his recurrentanger; in the end, he's still running from himself. Hill's grasp of history is more impressive than his hold on his characters.
The Independent on Sunday
“Hill keeps the tension building to a climax which features the most unpleasant final image I’ve come across in a long time. Quite brilliant.”
The Observer
“Apart from everything else that this novel is a beautifully paced thriller, a meditation on loss, guilt, obsession...it is also one of the finest novels written so far about this, our age of terror.”
Marie Claire (UK)
“[An] elegant, sinister novel…Grippingly good.”
The Guardian
“The ingenious plot twists of THE HIDDEN are satisfying to follow, and the book’s constant sifting of the present through the past is done with admirable intelligence. But what lingers more than anything are these quick, sure, playfully notational passages. You don’t often see writing as lively as this.”
New York Times Book Review
“[A] high-stakes, propulsive narrative. . . . The novel’s ideas are explored with stylish rigor and a rare boldness made all the more powerful by its surprising lyricism.
Daily Telegraph (London)
“[T]his is a wonderful novel: elegant yet savage, restrained yet full-throttled, illuminated by the sort of brilliance that leaves you short of breath.”
The Independenton Sunday
"Hill keeps the tension building to a climax which features the most unpleasant final image I’ve come across in a long time. Quite brilliant."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061943058
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
782,024
File size:
1 MB

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