“The Visitors” is an historical novel by Sally Beauman set in Egypt in the 1920s and present-day London. This novel tells the story of the search for the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The author has fictionalized the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb while using actual historic individuals, including Howard Carter, principal archaeologist, and his financier and mentor, Lord Carnavon.
The imagined observations are those of the protagonist, 11-year-old Lucy Foxe-Payne, who is sent to Egypt to recover from a bout of typhoid fever that killed
Her father, a Cambridge professor, barely knows what to do with her, so with money from her wealthy American maternal grandparents, he packs Lucy off to Cairo, with her caring, but proper governess, Miss Mack.
The two are welcomed into the group of archaeologists and their families. Miss Mack involves Lucy in activities, and soon this sad, lonely little girl meets young Frances Winlock, daughter of (real-life) American archaeologist, Herbert Winlock, curator of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Luxor excavations. The Winlocks were part of the British and American ex-pat community.
Lucy and Frances form lifelong friendships, also befriending 10-year-old Rose Strathaven and her little brother, Petey.
Much of this novel is told in the elderly Lucy’s recollections of her childhood travels, as well as memories of her family life during that time – her return to Cambridge, vacations in Hampshire and her return to the Valley of the Kings.
The era of discovery in Egypt is in Lucy’s mind the most memorable time of her life. The time and the places both marked and helped to define her.
Lucy looks back on her life and is encouraged by a young documentary maker, Ben Fong.
These two narratives indicate how her life had been shaped by the events she witnessed in Egypt. Through the eyes of the two young girls, the reader witnesses the most exciting archaeological find ever.