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Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth
Land of Marvels is set in 1914 Mesopotamia where a naive British archaeologist named Somerville is using his inheritance to excavate a mound called Tell Erdek. He's hoping that his finds there will solidify his reputation and win back the affections of his wife. He's also aware that the Baghdad Railway is under construction and headed his way. He hopes that if he finds Assyrian relics, that the path of the railway will bypass his site. To curry favor with those who might make that happen, he agrees to take on an American geologist named Elliot. He's unaware, though, that the American is prospecting for oil. Set against the background of World War I, the crumbling Ottoman Empire, and the land that will become Iraq, Barry Unsworth's novel has received mostly positive reviews with the London Times saying, "Richly peopled, fast-moving, cleverly plotted, written with economy and elegance, this novel has the satisfying density and sweep of a book twice its length."