This is certainly the longest title of the year, and the most poetic. I wondered if it was a quote from somewhere, but Google just directed me to the book itself. If any poetry experts can source the words, please let me know. There used to be an adjective used to describe long novels with a complex time structure – “sprawling”. I was never sure if it was entirely complimentary, but this book, with 425 pages and a time span ranging between 1985 and 2031 might fit the bill.
It is set in Libya, more specifically the ancient regions of Cyrenaica, Triplotania and Fezzan, which have been fought over almost since time began. Greeks, Romans, Ottomans, Italians, Nazi Germany, the British Empire – the sands are stained with the blood of fighting men.
Jack Meredith is the central figure in this saga. While working as a geologist in Libya in the 1980s he is thrown in prison but rescued by Bushra, a wealthy woman of Greek/Libyan parentage. Their relationship is not a happy one, however, and their twin children eventually go their separate ways, Emma to London and Stavros to Benghazi.
That was then, but Mayne imagines a future – 2024 – where a rampant Russia reclaims the Baltic states it lost and seeks to dominate the Mediterranean. A desperate United Nations cedes Cyrenaica to the Russians, who also control Greece The remaining parts of Libya are held by The European Defence Alliance.
Skipping ahead even further, to 2031, Jack and Bushra are temporarily reunited, with their grand-daughter Isabel and their son Stavros both become involved in resistance movements against the Russians.
The cover describes the story as “a novel of love, tragedy, and reconciliation.” It is published by The Book Guild, and is out on 28th June.