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Belzoni Dreams of Egypt by Jon Clinch
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Belzoni Dreams of Egypt

by Jon Clinch

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Jon Clinch continues to astound me. This book is so different from [Finn] and [Kings of the Earth], both of which I loved. And yet I loved this one too. Clinch is on Facebook, and in response to a comment I made there, he called [Belzoni] his "silly book". Well, it isn't silly, but it is certainly more light-hearted than the other two, and there is much in it to chuckle at. I'd love to see it made into a movie, à la Indiana Jones, or Romancing the Stone. Clinch has taken much of the substance of what is known of the actual man Giovanni Battista Belzoni's life, and turned it into a fictionalized autobiographical account from the deathbed. Belzoni was very large man, with strength and resourcefulness to spare; his interests included hydraulics and Egyptian archeology, and he made his mark in the world in both fields, in reality doing what we would probably call grave-robbing today. He "gave the world" the 7-ton head of Ramesses II, the way Lord Elgin "gave the world" those marvelous Grecian marbles. He also performed in circuses, traveled throughout Europe, married a remarkable woman, wrote about and exhibited his findings, and attempted to travel to Timbuktu. Unfortunately, he died along the way, perhaps of natural causes, perhaps of foul play as suggested by Sir Richard Burton. I was only vaguely aware of Belzoni before reading this novel, but Clinch has made him an irresistible personality, if one whose narration of his own life we might suspect to be somewhat unreliable. Highly recommended. ( )
3 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jun 24, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0692220879, Paperback)

Part adventure, part romance, and part tall tale—BELZONI DREAMS OF EGYPT is the “fictional autobiography” of Giovanni Battista Belzoni, a real-life 19th-century explorer, circus performer, and shameless self-promoter. He narrates the story at the end of his life, aboard a ship bound for the coast of Africa and his final, fatal adventure. Belzoni’s voice is bombastic and beautiful, and his narrative is both an unabashed love story and a ripping yarn. Plus, it’s mostly lies. The real-life Belzoni pillaged Egypt while Lord Elgin was pillaging Greece—only a whole lot more colorfully. Born in Padua, raised in Rome, and educated by the Capuchins, he stood nearly seven feet tall and easily found work in England as a circus strongman. His strength and agility, along with his expertise in hydraulics and pyrotechnics, brought him to the attention of of Mohammed ‘Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, and from there it was short work to begin ransacking the Valley of the Kings. BELZONI DREAMS OF EGYPT brings Belzoni back to vivid life, yarning about his exploits in a series of cliff-hangers involving pyramids and catacombs, poison gas and carnival freaks, heartless popes and Napoleon’s army. To say nothing of his loyal companion, the Irish orphan James Curtin, and his one true love, the faithful Sarah Banne Belzoni.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 26 Jul 2015 20:21:06 -0400)

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