Please join Mark Patton as he tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for Omphalos, from December 5-19.
by Mark Patton
Publication Date: December 5, 2014
Crooked Cat Publications
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
SIX EPOCHS, TEN LIVES INTERSECTING AT A SINGLE PLACE. 2013: Al Cohen, an American in search of his European heritage.
1944-1946: Friedrich Werner, an officer of the Wehrmacht and later a prisoner of war. His wife Greta, clinging to what remains of her life in war-torn Berlin.
1799: Suzanne de Beaubigny, a royalist refugee from revolutionary France.
1517: Richard Mabon, a Catholic priest on pilgrimage to Jerusalem with his secretary, Nicholas Ahier.
1160: Raoul de Paisnel, a knight with a dark secret walking through Spain with his steward, Guillaume Bisson.
4000 BC: Egrasté, a sorceress, and Txeru, a man on an epic voyage.
Transgressions, reconciliations and people caught on the wrong side of history.
Omphalos. A journey through six thousand years of human history.
Praise for Omphalos
“Omphalos is a powerful word, a powerful connotation, as are the stories focused on in this excellent collection. The author leads the reader from one story to the next like an easy progress through the chambers of La Hougue Bie, followed by a reverse journey of revelation. To say too much of how this is cleverly achieved through the excellent use of letters, prose and poetry, I feel, would spoil the enjoyment of a potential reader. The skilful writing techniques used make it a thoroughly engrossing read. I have no qualms in recommending ‘Omphalos’ to the lover of historical fiction and to those who enjoy a well-crafted tale.” – Nancy Jardine
Pre-Order the Book
Mark Patton was born and grew up on the island of Jersey. He studied Archaeology & Anthropology at Cambridge and completed his PhD at University College London. He has taught at the Universities of Wales, Greenwich and Westminster, and currently teaches with The Open University. He is the author of two previous historical novels, Undreamed Shores (Crooked Cat, 2012) and An Accidental King (Crooked Cat 2013).
A Place in Time
At the centre of my third novel, Omphalos, is a specific place, La Hougue Bie, on the island of Jersey. The novel is not really about the place, and much of the action takes place elsewhere (South Wales, Berlin, Venice, Crete, Jerusalem, Galicia), but it was the place that inspired the book (it is the “omphalos” of the title), and it is the place that links the six stories which make up the novel, each of them set in a different time period, from the present day back to 4000 BC.
I grew up on the island, and first visited La Hougue Bie when I was ten years old, as the highlight of a coach tour of Jersey’s prehistoric sites organised by the local museum. We arrived there late in the day, and the custodian stayed, specially, to keep it open for us. For the first time, I entered a building that had stood for more than six thousand years.
La Hougue Bie is at the centre of a museum complex and, a few years after my first visit, I joined the archaeological society which met there every Thursday evening. I left the island to study archaeology at Cambridge, but, when I came to write my PhD, my studies brought me back to La Hougue Bie, where I spent several weeks in the museum stores there, studying pottery and stone tools. A year after graduating, I was appointed curator there, a post I held for three years and, as curator, I directed my own excavations at La Hougue Bie, with a large team of students drawn from British and French universities.
Like a farmer or a gardener, an archaeologist conducting an excavation gains an intimacy with a place that few others can share. I was, often literally, up to my neck in the earth itself, taking the place apart, grain by grain and stone by stone, meticulously recording every tangible detail. I was eating and sleeping there, seven days a week, for week after week. Whereas, before I started digging, I was almost exclusively interested in the Neolithic tomb and the cairn that covered it, as I dug down through the various layers, I realised, on an emotional level, what I had always understood intellectually: that the prehistory was just one of many stories bound up in this place.
On top of the 6000 year old cairn is a 12th Century chapel, later divided into two. One of these chapels has a 16th Century crypt inserted beneath it, built in imitation of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. In the 18th Century, the chapels were incorporated into a Gothic pavilion, which, as it crumbled in the following century, became a picturesque ruin and beauty spot. The 18th Century ruin was demolished in the 1920s, in order to facilitate the excavations that led to the discovery of the prehistoric tomb. During the Second World War, the German army built an observation tower on top of the mound, and dug an air-raid shelter into the side of the cairn. When we excavated the site in the 1990s, we found objects from all of these periods, each one a tangible link to the people who had been intimate with the place before us.
In 1993 I left Jersey to take up an academic career in the UK. It is almost twenty years since I last visited La Hougue Bie, but I have often thought about it, and especially about the stories of those people to whom it was an important point in the landscape over so many centuries. When I was excavating there, it never occurred to me to write a novel, but there were stories already developing in my mind, stories that could never be told on the basis of the archaeological and historical record alone, stories that, I would eventually realise, could only ever take form as fiction. La Hougue Bie does feature in my first published novel, Undreamed Shores, but only in its prehistoric guise (“the great shrine of Andis”).
With the publication of Omphalos, I tell the stories of the other generations that were, at different times, intimate with this place. The story of Al Cohen, an American in search of his European heritage in 2013; of Friedrich Werner, an officer of the Wehrmacht in 1945, and afterwards a prisoner-of-war; of Suzanne de Beaubigny, a royalist refugee from revolutionary France in 1799; of Richard Mabon, a Catholic priest on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517; of Raoul de Paisnel, a knight with a dark secret, walking through Spain with his steward; and of Egrasté, a sorceress, and Txeru, a man on an epic voyage in 4000 BC. They are stories of transgression and reconciliation, of people caught on the wrong side of history. Join us for a journey, a pilgrimage of sorts, through six thousand years of our shared history.
Mark Patton’s novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon UK or Amazon USA .
Further information can be found on his website and blog .
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY
One paperback copy.
The giveaway is open internationally.
Just lick on the Entry-form here
Omphalos Blog Tour Schedule
Friday, December 5
Review at Back Porchervations
Monday, December 8
Guest Post & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Wednesday, December 10
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Monday, December 15
Review at Book Nerd
Tuesday, December 16
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, December 17
Spotlight at The Writing Desk