Having had the honour and pleasure of being an early reader of Gilli Allan’s Buried Treasure, now available for kindle via Amazon in the UK and US, I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour today and adding my praise to that of new readers. My thanks to the author for my advance reading e-copy, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to join the tour.
You’ll find reviews of two of Gilli’s other books here on Being Anne – Life Class and Torn (links are to my earlier reviews) – and there’s a lovely interview, from 2015, if you’d like to find out a little more about the author. It was a delight to find an author who writes the kind of stories that I like to read. And when I received my copy of Buried Treasure, it was rather a thrill to find my quote right there, on the front cover.
Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different. And there is nothing in the first meeting between the conference planner and the university lecturer which suggests they should expect or even want to connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Both have unresolved issues from the past which have marked them; both have an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems.
So, without apology (if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing twice!), here’s my review just once more…
Having so enjoyed the author’s earlier books, I was really rather looking forward to this one – and was delighted to find it had every quality I’d enjoyed about her writing.
An intriguing prologue sets the scene, and really drew me in – but I will admit that at the book’s opening I did find it quite difficult to engage with Jane, one of the book’s two main characters. But then so does Theo – although you’ll find that those first impressions are fairly soon overturned.
This is a book that rather defies classification by genre. Although there’s a strong element of romance, there’s a great deal more to its clever construction: as the attraction grows between its two main characters, there’s an engrossing historical mystery around the treasure of the title, all complicated by the politics of the academic world and the conflict between progress and the importance of preserving the past.
But there’s also an entirely unexpected element of darkness. Both characters have disturbing shadows in their pasts that make them the damaged and rather brittle people we first encounter, and their experiences are slowly revealed through the earlier part of the story in a way I found particularly effective.
I really enjoyed the way both Jane’s and Theo’s characters unfolded, as they slowly recognised their mutual attraction and demolished their personal walls. Having made so many mistakes in her past – for totally understandable reasons – Jane totally won me over, her quirkiness contrasted with a real drive and determination to make a success of her new business, with the strongest of personal reasons as to why it’s so important. (In passing, I must mention how well the author recreates the world of the conference organiser: anyone who’s ever done that job will have encountered the jobsworths whose mission in life seems to be making things more difficult…).
Theo’s a quite wonderful character, and I liked him very much – he has that stiffness and slight pomposity of his academic persona, and something of an obsession with his subject, but there’s a rather lovely softness and vulnerability beneath it all. There are some excellent peripheral characters too – a particularly convincing monster and “user” in Jane’s past, a partner in Theo’s whose behaviour is thoroughly shocking (but totally believable), and another who moves from charming to obnoxious as his true character is revealed.
I really loved the “treasure” thread and all the historical/archaeological context – the dig, the mystery, the red herrings, and the way everything is resolved. It’s so well handled, and really kept the pages turning, with real intrigue about the outcome and what it might mean for the characters. There’s an authenticity about it all that I very much enjoyed, and I found the depth of detail totally fascinating.
The writing is – as expected – excellent. The characters are so well developed, very real in the way they’ve been shaped by their past experiences. The author has a particular ease with dialogue, totally natural but always moving the story forward. The rhythm within the story’s telling really works – while the story necessarily lingers a little over the revelations of the past, the background punctuating and slowing the present day story, the later stages really pick up the pace and the pages turn increasingly quickly. And the book’s ending? Well, I thought that was just perfect…
Here are all the other bloggers taking part in the current tour…
About the author
Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage years. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the fiction. After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, and only began writing again when she became a mother.
Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.
Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is Viking Britain.
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