The Visitors

The Visitors

4.2 9
by Sally Beauman

View All Available Formats & Editions

Based on a true story of discovery, The Visitors is New York Times bestselling author Sally Beauman’s brilliant recreation of the hunt for Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings—a dazzling blend of fact and fiction that brings to life a lost world of exploration, adventure, and danger, and the audacious men willing to


Based on a true story of discovery, The Visitors is New York Times bestselling author Sally Beauman’s brilliant recreation of the hunt for Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings—a dazzling blend of fact and fiction that brings to life a lost world of exploration, adventure, and danger, and the audacious men willing to sacrifice everything to find a lost treasure.

In 1922, when eleven year-old Lucy is sent to Egypt to recuperate from typhoid, she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist. The friendship draws the impressionable young girl into the thrilling world of Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, who are searching for the tomb of boy pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.

A haunting tale of love and loss, The Visitors retells the legendary story of Carter and Carnarvon’s hunt and their historical discovery, witnessed through the eyes of a vulnerable child whose fate becomes entangled in their dramatic quest. As events unfold, Lucy will discover the lengths some people will go to fulfill their deepest desires—and the lies that become the foundation of their lives.

Intensely atmospheric, The Visitors recalls the decadence of Egypt’s aristocratic colonial society, and illuminates the obsessive, daring men willing to risk everything—even their sanity—to claim a piece of the ancient past. As fascinating today as it was nearly a century ago, the search for King Tut’s tomb is made vivid and immediate in Sally Beauman’s skilled hands. A dazzling feat of imagination, The Visitors is a majestic work of historical fiction.

Editorial Reviews

“Atmospheric…. Sally Beauman’s fact-inspired story plunges readers into the thrilling search for King Tut’s tomb in 1922 Egypt.”
More magazine
“Romance, deception, and colonial decadence.”
The Times (London)
“[A] beautifully written novel, a tale of intertwined lives that is at once powerful and haunting. Beauman maintains the tension surrounding the tomb’s discovery.”
Literary Review
“Interesting, unusual and informative, it is greatly enjoyable.”
New York Journal of Books
“There is much to delight in this book.…Nearly a century after King Tut’s discovery, Beauman manages to make both the lives of her fictional characters and those at the historical center of Tut’s unearthing riveting.”
Booklist(starred review)
“A book of astounding scholarship on Egyptology and the 1920s…. The novel’s…writing and characterizations are golden.”
Kirkus Reviews
This historical novel approaches, slantwise and at considerable length, the 20th century's most sensational archaeological event.The most obvious way to fictionalize the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb would be to have the major players tell the tale—Howard Carter, principal archaeologist, and his financier and mentor, Lord Carnarvon (resident earl of Highclere Castle, of Downton Abbey fame). Beauman's (The Sisters Mortland, 2006, etc.) more original approach—have a character at the margins carry the narrative weight—is riskier. The narrator, Lucy, is 11 when she first arrives in Egypt after the untimely death of her mother. Her trip is financed by her wealthy American maternal grandparents, since her widowed father, a Cambridge classics don, cannot cope with a child. Through a new friend, Frances, whose parents are archaeologists, Lucy hovers on the fringes of the dig, which includes the irascible, hard-drinking Carter; the affable, high-minded Lord Carnarvon; and their entourage of scientists, curators, wives and lovers. Abetted by Lucy's snoopy spinster guardian, Miss Mack, the girls hone their eavesdropping skills on the scandals surrounding glamorous divorcée Poppy, one of the hangers-on. Forced to return to the gloomy home of her father, Lucy is schooled in the art of manipulation by her conniving governess, Nicola, soon to be her stepmother. Then Lucy escapes back to Egypt just as Lord Carnarvon and Carter reveal their find, exceptional not merely for the magnitude of its treasure, but for the fact that the tomb has remained, through three millennia, virtually unmolested by looters. The ensuing "Tutmania" has unintended consequences for both men. Lucy's juvenile point of view is interspersed with the retrospective musings of nonagenarian Lucy, as a documentary filmmaker pesters her to divulge the untold story of the Tut dig. Since the main event is recounted mostly through hearsay, Lucy and her fellow supernumeraries have to be interesting in their own rights for this novel to succeed, and perhaps by dint of the sheer number of pages they occupy, they almost are.There are riches here, but it takes patience to unearth them.
Library Journal
In best-selling author Beauman's (Destiny; Rebecca's Tale) latest novel, an elderly woman remembers archaeologist Howard Carter and the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922. Eleven-year-old Lucy is shipped off to Egypt to recuperate after her mother's death from typhoid leaves her in the cold and distant care of her father. Soon after her arrival, she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist who introduces her to the exciting and politically fraught world of the Valley of the Kings. There are lots of familiar characters here, including Carter and his patron, Lord Carnarvon, who should appeal to fans of Egyptology. The mystery at the center of the plot, whether Carter and company opened the boy king's tomb illegally, keeps the story going through a few less successful subplots. Beauman particularly shines in the development of her characters: Carter is mercurial and difficult but fascinating, and the elderly Lucy is delightfully opinionated and great fun to read. VERDICT The novel isn't without its problems. Sometimes Lucy sounds a bit too grown-up for her age, and one plot line with Nicola, Lucy's governess-turned-stepmother, is tied up too neatly. But fans of the author's work, archeology, or historical sagas won't mind. [See Prepub Alert, 1/28/14.]—Liz Kirchhoff, Barrington Area Lib., IL

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author

Sally Beauman is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist who began her career at New York magazine. Her internationally bestselling novels, including Rebecca's Tale, her sequel to Daphne du Maurier's iconic work, have been translated into more than twenty languages. She has written for The New Yorker, the Sunday Times, and numerous other leading periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic.

Brief Biography

London, England
Date of Birth:
July 25, 1944
Place of Birth:
Torquay, Devon, England
B.A. in English Literature, Hons Cantab, 1966; M. A., Hons Cantab, 1969

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Visitors 4.2 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel helps one to also become a visitor to the Valley of the Kings in 1920's Egypt. Our child guide is insightful and complex but the real meat of the story for the Egyptian history lover are those little-known details surrounding the discovery and excavation of Tut's tomb. Intruiging and haunting, a recommended read!
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Visitors is the eighth novel by British-born author, Sally Beauman. Employing the narration of eleven-year-old Lucy Payne, a recent survivor of a bout of typhoid fever that claimed her American mother, Beauman plunges the reader deep into 1920’s Egypt as it stands on the brink of Howard Carter’s amazing discovery: King Tutankhamun’s tomb. As her father, a classicist Cambridge don is unable to cope with a young daughter, Lucy has been brought to Egypt by her guardian, Miss Mack, who is convinced it will help her to regain her zest for life. Encountering the British and American ex-pat community, she meets the rather precocious eight-year-old Frances Winlock, daughter of an American archaeologist, as well as ten-year-old Lady Rose Strathaven and her little brother, Petey (Viscount Hurst), children of the outrageous Poppy d’Erlanger, thus making lifelong friends, and finally starts to have some fun. Lucy’s narration follows events during her stay in Egypt, her return to Cambridge, vacation in Hampshire and her eventual return to the Valley of the Kings at the time of the great discovery. Occasionally, the narration switches to ninety-two-year-old Lucy, in her home in Highgate, London, looking back on her life, partly prompted by young Ben Fong, a documentary maker, and visits with the now elderly Lady Rose. In her old age, Lucy finds that “Grief’s talons are never sheathed, and its patient capacity to wound is unremitting”. Beauman’s novel takes the dry facts of the tomb’s discovery and brings them to life by inserting fictional characters and dialogue, along with a bit of drama and intrigue. The almost four pages of character summary (both real and fictional) will be much appreciated by readers, and the thirteen pages on people, places and provenance adds further to the interesting facts covered in the novel. Beauman’s pace is very measured and some readers may find it a little slow; the narrator is sometimes frustratingly unforthcoming, although this may simply be a device to build the story. Beauman expertly renders the feel of the early twentieth century in England and Egypt. She touches on several controversial topics: the ownership of the tomb relics; the curse of the tomb; the effect of tourism on the tombs. An interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully written, imaginative take on the recent obsession with the early 20th Century.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Well developed characters, and believably fleshed -out depictions of historical figures.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RplusR More than 1 year ago
Two novels tied together One novel (and the reason I was interested in reading this book) is a stort set against Howard Carter's discovery of King Tutanhamun's tomb. The events are seen through the eyes of an eleven year old (Lucy Payne) and her ten year old friend. I found this novel interesting. As much as you read about the discovery of the tomb, you don't get a sense of the personalities involved. The novel addresses that issue as the names found in the accounts of the discovery come to life. I would rate this novel as four stars. One distraction is the eleven year old comes across as far too sophisticated for her supposed age. Beauman (the author) ties this novel together with a second story about Lucy's upbringing in England and how she comes under the influence of a governess who becomes a fringe member of the Bloomsbury group. Perhaps as a separate novel, I would have enjoyed this story more, but I found it distracting from what the book is supposed to be about (consider the title). I would give this part of the book two stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago