I thought this novel was wonderfully inventive, one I will never forget. The deliciously wicked wit and madcap humor hooked me immediately, and i agree with Gary Shteyngart who says in his book blurb that Phillips has 'peerless comic timing.'
The [ahem] rampant sexuality may be too much for some, but the innuendo is witty. How do I put this? A sense of the ridiculous will be indispensable.
The book is not just about Egyptology or Egyptologists, but also about the allure of ancient Egypt for all during the golden age of archaeological discovery, the mystery, mythology and magic that so fascinated people from all lands and walks of life, and still does. The book is a mixture of fact and fiction, past and present, rich and poor, the elite world of Eton and Oxford vs. the new wealth of American industry vs. the hardscrabble poor of Australian slums. There is romance, lust, jealousy--academia and otherwise--greed, imagination vs. the mundane, dreamers and dullards, in particular a plodding police detective who is a dog with a bone where Ralph is concerned.
Some readers may find all the personal correspondence tedious, but many letters hold clues to later events, and by the 1920s the world was beginning to change--radically so following WW1. The catastrophic battle at Gallipoli in particular plays a part in this story.
This is the first title I've read by Arthur Phillips, so I can't compare it with his other novels, but I definitely plan to read more of his work. The ending so blew me away that I want to reread it to see if I missed some clue... But I'm not sure that there is any one explanation; I suspect we're supposed to be left wondering. I'd love to know what others make, however, of the creeping similarities between Ralph and Atum-hadu by the end of the book.
My biggest criticism--which has nothing to do with the writing--is of the poor scan quality of the Random House e-book. There are no visible breaks in text as there would be in a bound book to indicate change in narrator, e.g., between Ralph's and Harry's letters. You figure out soon enough what has happened, but it's still disconcerting every time it occurs, and it occurs all too often. There is no excuse for any publisher--especially one as big as Random House--to be selling books with this many formatting and/or scan errors. Perhaps if enough readers point out serious problems to publishers, or to the people tasked with purchasing library materials--the acquisitions staff--they can choose better quality materials with our tax dollars. Maybe when profits start to shrink, publishers will finally take action. Their practice of relying solely on machines--optical scanners--cutting proofreader positions to save on labor costs, is foolhardy in the extreme. While this ebook is not the worst I've seen, there is no excuse for any level of sloppiness; errors should be as unacceptable in e-books as they are in hardback.
Not that great. A little confusing and unlikable characters. Unrealistic as well. Maybe I am getting too old to appreciate subtleties.
In the 1920s, Egyptologist Ralph M. Trilipush (secretive, arrogant, and paranoid) has pinned all his hopes on Atum-hadu. Trilipush translated and published the ancient Egyptian king?s erotic verses, but his fame in the field rests on finding the pharaoh?s tomb and accompanying riches. Trilipush is not especially well respected by his fellow scholars and he?s maddeningly jealous of Howard Carter?s recent discovery of the tomb of King Tut. But now he?s got the funding (from his opium-addicted fiancé?s wealthy father) for his own dig, and he knows that Atum-hadu is out there, under the Egyptian sun, waiting to be uncovered. If things don?t go according to plan?and with an Australian detective on his tail, investigating the disappearance of an explorer who had connections to our arrogant Egyptologist, plans might very well go awry?Ralph M. Trilipush is equipped with exactly the kind of raving megalomania to cope with the situation. Author Arthur Phillips? tale of deceit, self-deceit, and exposure unfolds through a series of letters to and from Trilipush. With a streak of macabre humor peeking out amongst the drama and a mean twist of an ending, The Egyptologist is a strange, darkly comic creation that is sure to shock and surprise.
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