The Ruby In Her Navel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Ruby In Her Navel

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  412 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Thurstan, a young Norman and would-be Knight at the Court of King Roger in Palermo, has been in love since boyhood with Lady Alicia, now returned a widow from the Holy Land. Thurstan soon finds himself caught in a tangle of plots, counter-plots and deceptions that threaten to destroy him.
Paperback, 337 pages
Published 2007 by Penguin (first published 2006)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Ruby In Her Navel, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Ruby In Her Navel

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 909)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Ako volite povijesne knjige u kojima ima svega, dakle ljubavi, čulnosti i romantike, ali i spletki i intriga, svakako pročitajte ovaj roman. Radnja se odvija na Siciliji u 12. stoljeću, a pisana je očima mladog Normana koji je rasrgan između dvije žene. Priča me od početka zainteresirala, Unsworth piše jako zanmljivo tako da me je do samog kraja radnja držala u napetosti. Neke rečenice sam si čak i prepisala. Ja mu dajem čistu peticu!
A Ruby in Her Navel is yet another superb historical novel by Barry Unsworth. By his phenomenal standards, this book might at first appear somewhat one-paced, even one-dimensional, with its action set firmly in the place and time of its main character, Thurston Beauchamp, a young man in the service of King Roger of Sicily in the twelfth century. But if A Ruby in Her Navel might lack the immediacy and complexity of Stone Virgin, it approaches the beautifully portrayed picture of medieval life pre...more
Unsworth not quite at the top of his form with this one, but the setting was fascinating to me: the Norman kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century under Roger II. Under Roger's rule Greek and Latin Christians, Jews and Muslims all live in harmony.

The protagonist, Thurstan, son of a landless Norman knight and a Saxon mother works in the Diwan of Control--the finance office, but some call it the Diwan of Secrets. His superior is a Muslim, Yusuf. Thurstan is the Purveyor of Spectacles [obtains enter...more
A novel of palace intrigue set in 12th century Palermo. We are at the court of King Roger II, a Norman, who rules an ethnically diverse realm in which he tries to balance the rights of Christian and Muslim and Jew. Only the Muslims, however, seem content with this arrangement, perhaps because they comprise King Roger's most trusted counselors. He mistrusts his own people, the Normans, and for good reason as events reveal. The Catholics have just lost the Second Crusade—ignominiously and with ter...more
James (JD) Dittes
With his brilliant novel, Songs of the Kings, Unsworth moved into one of my three favorite contemporary writers. He has an eye for period detail in his historical novels, but his strength is the subtle context that comments vividly on 21st-century events.

For example, Songs of the Kings, when it appeared in 2003, used Odysseus to demonstrate the madness of kings, and the relative ease with which they use saga to lead individuals to their doom. Three months after its release, the Iraq War began.

Oh I love this book so much! I was so thirsty for one good historical novel and Unsworth never disappointed me so far.

This book is telling story about 12th century Sicily during the rule of Normans. Curiously I watched few days ago on History channel one series about this subject and it helped me to get wider perspective about what Unsworth wrote here.

12th Century Sicily was perfect place of harmony between Muslims (Saracens) and Christians (both Catholic and Byzantine) under the rule of King Ro...more
Cynthia Haggard
Barry Unsworth’s THE RUBY IN HER NAVEL is a gem of a novel, hidden behind the thicket of its unpromising beginning.

Set in Sicily in the 1100s during the reign of Roger I of Sicily, we follow the story of a young man named (somewhat improbably in my opinion) Thurstan Beauchamp, who travels through the world as a purveyor of the King’s pleasures and shows. Naturally, there is more to this innocent-seeming job than meets the eye. Of course, Thurstan is really a spy, intent on finding out about diss...more
Derek Bridge
Although a winner of a Booker Prize (for the excellent Sacred Hunger), Barry Unsworth seems little known and under-appreciated. This may be because some are 'sniffy' about 'historical novels'. But Unsworth lifts the genre to a higher plane. There is the attention to historical detail that you would expect. But his central character always has a complex inner life; time and place are vividly described; and story lines are strong. All this is true of The Ruby in her Navel, a tale of 12th century d...more
'The Ruby in her Navel' is set in the Norman kingdom of Sicily under King Roger II (the 12th century). Latin, Greek, Arab and Jew live together in precarious harmony in the city of Palermo. Due to the second crusade the opinion on the Muslims in Palermo has changed; they are seen more and more as a treat.

The book is narrated by Thurstan Beauchamp, a Norman Christian who works for Yusuf, a Muslim Arab, in the palace‘s central finance office. The job includes the management of brides and blackmai...more
Diane Lybbert
Set in 11th century Sicily, the main character is Thurston, the Purveyor of Pleasures (basically entertainment director) and purse bearer to King Roger. The setting is shortly after the failure of the Crusades, and the King seeks to keep 'balance' between his Muslim subjects and his Christian subjects. There are intrigues and conspiracies surrounding the palace, and Thurston finds himself in the thick of things. He alternately pines for Alicia, who was a childhood friend but now an object of aff...more
i really like the way barry unsworth writes historical fiction. his research never overwhelms his story, and threads into the ideas he explores through the backdrop of another time: in this novel, the beauty of the mosaic art, the blend of multiple indistinguishable stones coming together in a particular shape to create beauty, is as the diverse populace of sicily in the twelfth century: some identifying as muslim, christian, others as greek, norman, german all contribute to the culture, all peo...more
I enjoyed this a great deal. It was an experience, not just a story and a telling, but all of that and more - a world, a mindset, an exploration - and deeply satisfying all up.

The first thing that grabbed me was the strength of the first-person narrator. There's a deep and stark and involved style to his voice that helps seat the book in its time and place (more about this later) but also establishes the novel firmly as Thurstan-telling-his-story. I have endless impatience with books that a firs...more
This novel is set in 12th century Sicily, a place where Christians, Jews, and Moslems have been co-existing in relative peace for decades under the the rule of the Norman king Roger II. The main character, Thurstan Beauchamp, is the protege of a Moselm minister, Yusuf, and works in one of the royal chanceries as a purveyor of entertainments and sometime spy and bearer of bribes. Despite the book's moderate length, the plot is quite complicated. Thurstan becomes involved in a treacherous web of c...more
There are books that aren't good, but because of their well written ending we end up liking them (Life of Pi for one). The Ruby in Her Navel isn't one of those books. The ending, while trying desperately to be profound - wasn't. The biggest chunk of the story was compressed and rushed at the end as a well written yet garbled mess, while the primary 2/3 of the book was littered with loooong descriptions of clothes, tedious thoughts of the hero and insipid conversations.

In the middle of the book I...more
FBC review below:

INTRODUCTION: "The Ruby in Her Navel" is a 2006 (Booker longlisted) historical fiction novel by Booker prize winner Barry Unsworth that showcases why fantasy lovers should try the genre. Like last year's Father of Locks, "The Ruby in Her Navel" transports one into a familiar but also exotic milieu that is exquisitely rendered. This time it is the multiethnic and multireligious Norman Kingdom of Sicily at its apogee in 1149 under King Roger II. The blurb below gives a flavor of t...more
Apesar de na capa se ler que o The Times considerou este livro como "Tão intenso como O Nome da Rosa", eu tenho de o negar pela simples razão que apesar do filme "O nome da rosa" ser um dos meus filmes favoritos, o livro que lhe deu origem já lhe peguei pelo menos 2 vezes e não consigo acabar de o ler; e sinceramente este livro do Barry Unsworth lê-se bastante bem.

Este livro é um romance histórico na sua mais pura forma. É um livro que nos transporta para o século XII e que facilmente compreend...more
Wandering Librarians
During the Middle Ages in Italy, Thurstan Beauchamp, a Christian Yusuf, an Arab, in the palace's finance office. Thurstan not only deals with the King's money, but also gets sent on errands that involve bribes and blackmail. On one of these errands, Thurstan meets his childhood sweetheart, whose husband has recently died. Thurstan believes that at last he will have everything he ever wanted, but there are dark times approaching for the kingdom of Sicily, and things are not as they appear.

Every n...more
The Ruby in Her Navel is a beautifully written, rich and descriptive historical novel which transports the reader to Palermo, during the Middle Ages. A place where Latin, Greek, Arab and Jewish live in a sort of precarious harmony, a real melting pot of race and religion ruled by King Roger II.

The story is narrated by Thurstan Beauchamp - a Christian, a would-be Knight (whose aspirations have been frustrated by his Father who, gave up his own Knighthood and riches to join the Monastery) who is...more
An historical novel set in 12th century Sicily in which, on the surface all is peaceful. As we get into the book, we learn that the Normans have recently taken control of the island and set King Roger on the throne; The Muslims have been displaced after centuries of rule but still have power and influence; the Greek Orthodox are being pushed out and replace by Roman Catholics.

Our hero, Thurstan, is a Norman who lost his inheritance and dream of knighthood after his father, on loosing wife, baby,...more
I really enjoyed this -- set in 1120 (or thereabouts, I forget the date), Ruby in Her Navel was full of court intrigue, historical background, and gorgeous writing. Also, plenty of foppish clothing details from our narrator, Thurstan, who works in the court of the Sicilian King. Thurstan, while bright enough and full of high ideals, is also terribly vain, naive, and short-tempered. We can see from the outset that these characteristics are going to cause big trouble for him -- and indeed they do....more
Lynne Norman
Whilst the historical setting was fascinating, well-researched and described in a way that compliments rather than overwhelms the story, I simply didn't find this book a 'page-turner'. I think this is largely because Thurstan, the lead character and narrator, simply annoyed me. He is negative, whiny and pretty shallow. I just couldn't bring myself to care enough about him to worry about his fate - particularly as most of his misfortune is self-created and others suffer more for his poor decision...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
He's certainly... capable as a novelist. Wait, why did his other book win the Booker Prize, again? Historical novel about a gullible employee (a couple of times removed from the court) in 12th-century Sicily. Lots of Norman Catholic - Muslim religious conflict. Very exciting. But it just wasn't good enough. There's no other way for me to put it.

I had not been drawn to Lazar from the start and these present words of his recalled the reason: it was as though his long habit of subterfuge had ended...more
Claude Nougat
This historical novel revives beautifully a largely forgotten period of History: Palermo in the 12th century when the Normans had recently invaded the island and society was still divided between the previous governing class (the Arabs) and the new one (Norman-led). A story of intrigue and passion, it delivers many moments of pleasure for the reader - unfortunately, it's a little too 19th century-like in its long, overwrought descriptions and one would wish for the action to speed up. Also, when...more
I enjoy historical novels full of drama, romance, mystery and intrigue as much as the next person and Unsworth has provided just that. However, Thurstan Beauchamp is not the most politically savvy of lead characters and is easily led astray by a pretty face. Unsworth created a set of realistic and diverse characters in this novel and they all play their parts well. The setting and period are described and I found it easy to imagine the scenes and locations. At times I didn't always follow the lo...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diana Sandberg
Almost very good. I did like a lot of it, enjoyed the historical period – 12thC Sicily – and the politics. I very much liked the perspective of the narrator, clearly not a 21st century person. But it did drag a bit in places. And I was rolling my eyes as the narrator on more than one occasion made variations on the old “had I but known….” remark. Yeah, yeah. I will say that, as the narrator bitterly regrets things he did or didn’t do over the course of the tale, the remark isn’t entirely unsuita...more
Unsworth is a fine writer, so I enjoyed reading this story of both romantic love and court intrigue set in the multiethnic and multireligious Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century. It was "Byzantine" in plot (intrigues, corruption, secrecy, spying) and in feel, too; I enjoyed the descriptions of gardens, architecture and, most of all, the mosaics being installed in the Cappella Reale. I was interested to read about the tensions between Muslims and Christians at such a pivotal point in the...more
I really want to give this book a "3.5"...can I do that?

This is the story of Thurstan Beauchamp, the young and handsome Christian working as the Purveyer of Pleasures (entertainment) and purse bearer in the court of King Roger. It is set in Palermo in the middle ages, and peace among the Latins, Greeks, Christians, Arabs and Jews who live there is threatened daily. Thurstan becomes inwittingly involved in a plot to overthrow authority...and his life is changed forever.

...Oh, and then there is N...more
I have just discovered Barry Unsworth recently and I am so glad I did. His books are beautifully written stories that capture a particular historical moment: Morality Play in medieval England; The Ruby in her Navel in 12th century Sicily; Sacred Hunger, about the slave trade in 17th century England (in my "to read" list). The Ruby in her Navel tells the story of Thurstan, a naive Norman young man who wanted to be a knight, but has his ambitions thwarted by his father's surprising (to him) decisi...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30 31 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • So Many Ways to Begin
  • Be Near Me
  • The Keepers of Truth
  • Every Man for Himself
  • Get a Life
  • The Perfect Man
  • The Beginning of Spring
  • The Underground Man
  • Havoc, in Its Third Year
  • Oxygen
  • Great Maria
  • Crossing the River
  • Pravda
  • Praxis
  • The Venetian Mask
  • The Road to Lichfield
  • Confederates
  • The Secret Wife of King George IV
Barry Unsworth was born in 1930 in a mining village in Durham, and he attended Stockton-on-Tees Grammar School and Manchester University, B.A., 1951.

From 1951-53, in the British Army, Royal Corps of Signals, he served and became second lieutenant.

A teacher and a novelist, Unsworth worked as a lecturer in English at Norwood Technical College, London, at University of Athens for the British Council...more
More about Barry Unsworth...
Sacred Hunger Morality Play Land of Marvels The Quality of Mercy The Songs of the Kings

Share This Book