Barry Unsworth: The Ruby in Her Navel

(1568 words)

Barry Unsworth’s fifteenth novel, The Ruby in Her Navel (2006), opens with an enigma – what is the true story behind the ruby which glows in the navel of Nesrin, the beautiful Anatolian dancer who is famous in the courts of Europe? In resolving that question, the first-person narrator, Thurstan Beauchamp, provides the kind of lucid but multi-layered tale which is characteristic of Unsworth’s fiction at its best. Thurstan’s story starts in April 1149, in Palermo in Sicily, where a King reigns for the first time – the Norman King, Roger, whose father and uncle conquered the island after two centuries of Arab rule. But a strong Arab presence remains. Yusuf ibn Mansur, a Moslem, is the powerful head of the Diwan of …

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Tredell, Nicolas. "The Ruby in Her Navel". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 29 December 2006
[, accessed 30 September 2016.]