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Pascali's Island

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  194 ratings  ·  15 reviews
The year is 1908, the place, a small Greek island in the declining days of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. For twenty years Basil Pascali has spied on the people of his small community and secretly reported on their activities to the authorities in Constantinople. Although his reports are never acknowledged, never acted upon, he has received regular payment for his work. Now ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 17th 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1980)
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Community Reviews

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Mahmut Şenol
I mesmerized by this marvelous book! Protagonist reminds me Bay Konsolos character of mine... ...more
The editors of The Wilson Quarterly have provided a casual reading list for summer, and two books caught my eye.
James Carman: Basil Pascali, the protagonist of Barry Unsworth’s short, gripping novel Pascali’s Island (1997), is a spy for the sultan in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. From his remote outpost on an Aegean island, he’s been sending reports to Istanbul that no one reads for years. Lately, nervous about losing his much-needed pay, he’s begun “embellishing” his messages, weaving
Diana Sandberg
Well.....I found it slow to read, though quite a slim book. I think I liked it better once I’d finished it than while I was reading it, if that makes any sense. Once I had the whole concept in view, I found it really quite interesting, but the execution was not so compelling as perhaps it should have been. The brilliance I found in Morality Play is evident here but not complete.

I really like the idea that what I read would have been a great swashbuckling romance, if told from the point of view o
I was very impressed by Unsworth's Booker-winning Sacred Hunger, and I recently read the sequel, The Quality of Mercy -- so I was pleased to receive this via my postal book group. It displays the same dazzling style as the other two but other than that doesn't have much in common!

Strangely, it reminded me of Stephen Benatar's Wish Her Safe at Home, although the setting is completely different. Both of them have a compellingly unreliable narrator. Unlike Rachel, Pascali is quite open about makin
Unsworth is a phenomenal writer and has a wonderful command of language and the imagery of his descriptions were excellent.

However the novel was rather meh. The protagonist is an 'anti-hero' and a lonely, sad, and tortured individual and while he displayed some moments of humor or wit, overall Pascali is not entirely likeable, so it was difficult for me to fully immerse into the story and his environment.

The novel is written as a collection of letters and unfold the narrative in the past tense
Robert Wechsler
I was torn for years about reading Barry Unsworth. I’d read that he was interested in ethical issues, but his writing seemed too standard realist. I tried this novel, because it’s relatively short for him, and it seemed a little less straightforward. And it was. However, it was very dependent on the narrator’s voice and, although the writing was excellent, the voice was not. It was not very believable, nor was it very interesting. And he was not a person for whom ethical issues were very importa ...more
Blaine DeSantis
In reality it is about a 2.5 for me. I have read other of Unworth's work and this one just left me cold. Could not figure out exactly what this was about and exactly who Bowles really was and what he was really after. Had this been the first book I read of Unsworth I am not sure I would have read another.
This short novel was pretty good. It's set on a small Greek Island in 1908 and is narrated by Basil Pascali, a neglected informer for the decaying Ottoman Empire. Pascali has recently come to believe that the islanders are on to him, and his is becoming slightly paranoid. Into this situation comes Anthony Bowles an Englishman with archeological aspirations who turns out to be part charlatan, part visionary. The interaction between Bowles and Pascali leads to intrigue and betrayal. The style of t ...more
Wonderfully written -- descriptions of light and scene, and amazing characterization of the central character, Pascali, who is a professional informer for the crumbling Ottoman Empire, living on a remote Greek island as the larger world convulses (1908). Intrigue and desperation prevade; after a rather gradual introduction in the first half of the book, the drama escalates to an inevitable clash of selfish wills and competing cultures. Good book by a great author.
A brilliant book!
"It's not the mastery of language. Nor is it the precision with which Unsworth draws his characters. It is, rather, the skill, always evident in his work, with which he illuminates moral dilemnas that makes this book unforgettable. An intense foray into the mind and heart of am informer, this novel will touch all those who have ever wanted to tell their own story but felt unworthy. A very disturbing and moving work." an review
My first Barry Unsworth novel, and one that also taught me a lot about what the word Byzantine actually meant. The intersection of a Turkish spy who never actually spoke to any of his masters and an Englishman hunting for archaeological booty makes for a great yarn.
Fast read, though the action is slow going until the halfway mark and then it basically doesn't slow down until the end. I'd put this book in historical fiction/mystery if I had to categorize it based from my read of it.
Intriguing if deliberately constrained portrait of a man for whom deception now comes too easily.
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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 about Barry Unsworth...
Sacred Hunger Morality Play The Ruby in Her Navel The Quality of Mercy Land of Marvels

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