Barry Unsworth’s last novel, The Songs of the Kings, was an enchanting and vivid retelling of the myth of Iphigenia at Aulis, which, as all good refashionings should, added new layers of understanding. It suggested a world seething with conspiracy in which everything was deceptive. Living flesh was added to the bones of myth, making something startling and convincing.
The Ruby in Her Navel is set in twelfth-century Sicily during the Crusades. The treachery and lies at the heart of this novel are revealed in two powerful recurring images. One is of a pair of swinging mirrors, held by two brass Saracen dwarfs, that ‘turn earth and sky and