In a brilliant and ambitious thriller that combines elements of Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear and Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth into a riveting, multifaceted tale of love, art, courage, and war, Martin Walker brings to life the creation of an extraordinary work of prehistoric cave art and the struggle to possess it in our own time.
Walker's richly interwoven novel opens with the arrival of a mysterious package for a young American woman working in a London auction house. Brought by a British officer, it contains a 17,000-year-old fragment of a cave painting left to him by his father, a former World War II hero.
The fragment, significant and stunning in itself, is also the key to the existence of an un-known cave that may be more important in the history of art and human creation than the world-famous one at Lascaux. It triggers a storm of publicity and commands the attention of the French authorities all the way up to the President of the Republic, who seems to know more about the painting's origins than anyone else...
As the young American woman, the British officer, and a French government art historian explore the ancient province of Périgord to determine the painting's origins, their search serves as backdrop for three compelling stories. There is the tale of the British officer's father who lands in Nazi-occupied France in 1944 to organize the Resistance, culminating in a series of battles to prevent the SS Das Reich Panzer Division from reaching the Normandy beaches in time to repel the D-Day invasion, which leads to an account of the subsequent discovery -- and cover-up -- of the lost cave and its paintings. And there is also the moving story of the young artist who painted them, the woman he loved, and the ancient culture that produced the first recognizable human art but required the sacrifice of its own creators.
Filled with vivid, historically accurate details and imaginative re-creations of prehistoric life, The Caves of Périgord blends a complex plot and richly diverse characters into a seamless narrative of romance, tragedy, and heroism from past to present.
The discovery of a fragment of a prehistoric cave painting stirs up old passions in modern Europe in this busy, fact-driven fourth novel by commentator and journalist Walker (America Reborn). When Maj. Philip Manners approaches auction house expert Lydia Dean about an object inherited from his father, he expects merely to turn a quick profit. But Lydia is alarmed: the fragment appears to be from an uncharted French cave and was probably obtained illegally. It is stolen from the auction house, prompting an intense reaction from French President Franois Malrand. Having set up the theft as an elaborate McGuffin, Walker then shifts to the "Vzere Valley, approximately 15,000 B.C.," and the story of how young cave-dwellers Little Moon and Keeper of the Deer fall tragically in love and defy authorities by painting with unprecedented realism. The story leaps ahead to 1944 France, to describe how Malrand, aided by Manners's father, Jack, and an uncouth American named McPhee trained the French Resistance to fight the Germans and in the process stumbled upon the cave. The shifts from story to story make for a neat gimmick but an awkward package: despite the link of the fragment, the three stories often get in each other's way. Though much of the detail is fascinating, Walker devotes more energy to describing WWII technology and warfare than to developing the characters. In the end, it's the cave painting that is most vivid here. Agent, Ron Goldfarb of Goldfarb & Grayhill. (Mar. 12) Forecast: With several books (both fiction and non) and frequent appearances on CNN and NPR under his belt, Walker's name alone ensures respectable sales. The cover a cave drawing emblazoned with a red swastika will catch browsers' eyes. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Simon & Schuster
March 05, 2002
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Caves of Perigord by Martin Walker
Chapter 1: Time: The Present
Every interesting woman has a private smile, and Lydia Dean was startled by a brief, tantalizing glimpse of her own. Its reflection suddenly flashed on the glass covering a poster as she entered her cramped attic office, then it faded. She might almost have imagined it, and certainly there was no cause to smile. Determined not to show how much the interview with Justin had upset her, she closed the door firmly behind her and contemplated the imminent ruin of her empire. Yet for the first time that day, and despite the faint dismay at the prospect of unemployment, she felt her spirits lifting. It was a wry mood, inspired mainly by her sense of the ridiculous. Lydia never ceased to be amazed at the odd way her mind worked, the portentous phrases that suddenly popped into her thoughts. Empire? Ruin of Empire? She was simply facing the loss of a job that she did not much enjoy, although it allowed her to combine a career in art with a decent income.
It was a kind of empire, she mused, as she gazed at the map of the ancient world that hung on her wall. Her territory stretched from ancient Greece back to the dawn of time, from the plains of India to the Pillars of Hercules. From Hittites to Hammurabi, she had traveled it and researched it, and could read some of its dead languages. As a student she had dug into its archaeological sites, extracted shards of pottery from harsh earth, and even sacrificed her toothbrush to scrub them clean. And now, despite her new skill at fending off passes from politically connected Ministers of Culture who could barely spell the word, she was trying, and probably failing, to make a living from it.
Why on earth had she been so self-indulgent, so intellectually lazy when she first came back to England to go to graduate school? She chided herself, an internal and critical dialogue she was conducting more and more frequently. Art history was not a real subject, not like law or computing, or even business. Perhaps she should have concentrated on archaeology, she thought, until disagreeable memories surfaced of muddy campsites, a sore back, and amorous fellow-diggers who smelled rank. Certainly she should never have given up the research at the institute into the medieval art she really loved. Money was not everything. But the mortgage had to be paid each month. And today it had been made subtly clear that the auction house was unlikely to keep on paying her handsome salary as long as the market in her field remained so dismally, so unprofitably flat. Preclassical art meant everything before the Greeks and Romans. From Ancient Egypt to Babylon, Persepolis to the Holy Land, Lydia's empire covered continents and millennia, and yet never managed to bring in the sales and commissions that even the most obscure Impressionist painter could command.
"You -- or rather your field -- hmmm -- not looking too promising, I'm afraid," the department head had mumbled over her modest list of proposals for the coming year. Like so many Englishmen, Justin spoke in irritating circumlocutions, as if grim news were best delivered impersonally. It wasn't just her field, she knew; her employers also blamed her. She had been hired not simply to trawl the market and scoop off the best for her auction house, but to find and charm the sellers with the best collections and to recruit rich customers. She understood, without any of her employers being crassly un-English enough to say so, that her youth and looks had secured her the job. But she was also expected to create the kind of buzz in her field that generated publicity and profits, and here she was failing miserably. She could offer only a few museum sales, which meant low prices, one private collection of Sumerian artifacts, and another of what could well have been looted from Scythian grave mounds, which would spell trouble.