Having recently lost her beloved mother to typhoid and having barely survived the dreaded disease herself, 11-year-old Lucy Payne sets off from her home in England to explore the pyramids of Egypt with her intrepid companion, Miss Myrtle Mackenzie. The American spinster, known to everyone as Miss Mack, is hopeful that Lucy will recover from her trauma, both physically and emotionally, while in her care.
While Lucy is not so sure about the adventure, Miss Mack is determined to ply her charge with the same kind of enthusiastic care that she gave to the soldiers she tended during World War I and effect her eventual healing. Enthralled with the pyramids herself from having visited them previously, Miss Mack is sure that viewing them at sunrise will spark Lucy's interest and bring her back to the land of the living.
"Whether the narrative of Lucy Payne reflects events from her viewpoint as a child or implements the wisdom that comes only with old age, each nugget of information and each scene in the book propels the story forward to the inevitable end. "
While the Princeton, New Jersey native means well, the impetus for Lucy's recovery is the friendship that develops between herself and Frances Winlock, the young daughter of Herbert Winlock, an American archaeologist. Frances is everything that Lucy isn't --- outgoing, bold, brave and brazen --- and the two girls form an immediate, lifelong bond.
Surrounded by ambitious adults like the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, Howard Carter, Albert Lythgoe, Arthur Mace and Harry Burton, all of whom figure prominently in the excavation of the Egyptian tombs, Lucy and Frances are quickly immersed in the intrigue that surrounds this group of men who hunger for the discovery of a lifetime and will stop at nothing to achieve it.
Instead of discounting the undercurrents of mystery that whirl about them, Lucy and Frances become spies of sorts, gathering as much information as possible and taking an innate interest in every event that occurs, no matter how large or small. The majority of adults with whom they associate have no idea that the girls are observing and absorbing their every word and deed.
Even though her initial visit to Egypt in 1922 lasted mere months, Lucy finds that the country and the people she meets there will influence her for the rest of her life as she crosses paths with them repeatedly throughout the years. Whatever triumphs and tragedies Lucy experiences, ancient Egypt is never far from her heart or her mind.
THE VISITORS is a fascinating, largely historical novel by British author Sally Beauman. Whether the narrative of Lucy Payne reflects events from her viewpoint as a child or implements the wisdom that comes only with old age, each nugget of information and each scene in the book propels the story forward to the inevitable end.
While THE VISITORS is a fictional account, it combines true, historic events and figures with a heartwarming cast of fictional characters and their experiences, both ordinary and extraordinary. Even readers who’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the pyramids in the Valley of the Kings will imagine that they've baked under the blazing hot sun, felt the gritty sand beneath their feet and viewed the treasures that were made by Egyptian men and women 3,000 years ago and placed in monumental burial chambers to accompany kings and queens on their journey to the great beyond.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on July 11, 2014