The Ruby in Her Navel

Publisher: Anchor
In twelfth-century Norman Sicily, King Roger presides over Palermo in the aftermath of the Second Crusade. For the time being, Latins and Greeks, Arabs and Jews are living together in uneasy harmony. Within this milieu, young Thurstan Beauchamp serves faithfully as a civil servant of the king, his daily environment filled with tiny accountings, schemes, machinations, and bribes. When he is dispatched to investigate a conspiracy against the king, he will find his loyalties tested—and, when he encounters both his childhood sweetheart and a seductive dancer, his heart torn. An extraordinary tale of ambition, politics, and the loss of innocence, set against the glittering backdrop of medieval Europe, The Ruby in Her Navel powerfully traces the clash of civilizations from its historical origins, with deep resonances for 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...
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“Remarkable. . . . Hugely entertaining. . . . This is a tale that engages the reader from the get-go.”Los Angeles Times

“Brilliantly realized. . . . Ambitious, meticulously researched.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“Cinematic, thriller-like. . . . Lends suspense right up to the final pages.” —The Washington Post
“Unsworth sets out plots and the plots that undermine them with a rare join of head-splitting intricacy, taut suspense, and surreal images of foreboding.” —The Boston Globe

“An exotic tale of love, intrigue, betrayal and revenge. . . . Unsworth writes beautifully.” —The Seattle Times

“Unsworth succeed[s] triumphantly.” —The Guardian (London) 

“Part entertainment and part meditation on human venality, drawing moral anxiety and unwitting treachery out of 12th-century Sicily's turbulent inter-racial mistrust. . . . reinvigorates Unsworth's potent themes of violent domination, greed and prejudice straining at the fabric of society.” —Financial Times

“The work of a novelist at the height of his powers. . . . Delicately intricate in its construction and psychology, morally resonant and hugely satisfying.” —The Observer (London)

“Sparkles with apercus that seems familiar, a clash of religious identity that we quickly recognise and a lingering reflection on values, culture and historical roots that is at the heart of debate today. . . . Unsworth skillfully depicts the loyalties, religiosity and ideologies of a brittle age. . . . As vivid as The Name of the Rose and as accurate in the minutiae.” —The Times (London)

“This subtle and gripping historical novel is a triumph from a master of the form: from faith to food, dancing to mosaics, his Sicily shines and sizzles.” —The Independent (London)

“[A] beautifully constructed historical romance. . . . [Unsworth’s] themes are universal, and their historical setting subtly enhances our understanding of them.” —The Spectator (London)

“A very fine novel that twists and turns to reach a compelling climax.” —The Scotsman

“Heartrending. . . . Unsworth’s subtle prose conjures up an authentically realized medieval world . . . .  Can be read either as an exceptional historical novel or a modern parable on the dangers of blind patriotism.” —Booklist

“A richly imagined novel of the Middle Ages, filled with questions of race, God and fidelity. . . .  Unsworth’s luscious history is ripe territory for a dialogue on the ever-present struggle against intolerance, a seemingly inevitable human frailty.” —Kirkus Reviews