The Ruby in Her Navel

A Novel of Love and Intrigue in the 12th Century

Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Set in the Middle Ages during the brief yet glittering rule of the Norman kings, The Ruby in Her Navel is a tale in which the conflicts of the past portend the present. The novel opens in Palermo, in which Latin and Greek, Arab and Jew live together in precarious harmony. Thurstan Beauchamp, the Christian son of a Norman knight, works for Yusuf, a Muslim Arab, in the palace’s central finance office, a job which includes the management of blackmail and bribes, and the gathering of secret information for the king.
But the peace and prosperity of the kingdom is being threatened, internally as well as externally. Known for his loyalty but divided between the ideals of chivalry and the harsh political realities of his tumultuous times, Thurstan is dispatched to uncover the conspiracies brewing against his king. During his journeys, he encounters the woman he loved as a youth; and the renewed promise of her love, as well as the mysterious presence of an itinerant dancing girl, sends him on a spiritual odyssey that forces him to question the nature of his ambition and the folly of uncritical reverence for authority.
With the exquisite prose and masterful narrative drive that have earned him widespread acclaim, Barry Unsworth transports the reader to a distant past filled with deception and mystery, and whose racial, tribal, and religious tensions are still with us today.



WHEN NESRIN THE DANCER became famous in the courts of Europe, many were the stories told about the ruby that glowed in her navel as she danced. Some said it had been stolen by a lover of hers--who had gone to the stake for it--from the crown of King Roger of Sicily, others that it had been a bribe from Conrad...
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Advance Praise for The Ruby in Her Navel
The Ruby in Her Navel is captivating, sensuous, and immensely moving. It helps us understand our own contemporary world, for this is Barry Unsworth, the master of resonant historical fiction, on top form.”
—Jim Crace

“Barry Unsworth brilliantly peoples one of the most dazzling and least-known chapters of European history; I loved this book.”
—John Julius Norwich

Praise for The Songs of the Kings

“Detail so precise you can almost smell the cook fires . . . [Unsworth has an] almost magical capacity for literary time travel.”
—Neil Gordon, New York Times Book Review

“A book of subtlety, compassion, and skill, and it confirms Barry Unsworth’s position as a master craftsman of contemporary British fiction.”
—Charles Nicholl, Los Angeles Times Book Review