I have spent an entertaining few days reading The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips. Phillips walks the fine line between humor and pathos quite successfully, and he manages to pull off a bit of a mystery that will keep you turning pages — not so much because you won’t figure out what happened, but, as reviewer Barbara Mertz in The Washington Post concluded, how it happened. The story is told through letters and the journal of his main character, Ralph M. Trilipush, a man I loved to hate and hated to love — self-absorbed and exceedingly arrogant, but naive — and you just have to admire his determination (or obsession? you decide). One of the major themes of the novel is the legacy we leave behind and our quest to become immortal — a different method for each character, yet somehow it all comes down to the same conclusion. What that conclusion is, I’ll leave you to discover. The ending is probably one of the most tragicomic things I’ve ever read. I wanted to laugh and cry at the absurdity of it. Indeed, one could accuse Phillips of bathos, but then, I think that’s what he was really after. That’s kind of what life is, in the end.
A warning to the reader: this book will require patience. It unfolds slowly, layer by layer, through the words of two irritating narrators. However, it is the preciseness with which Phillips captures “that sort of person” that makes the outlandish events believable. I enjoyed the writer’s style, but it might not appeal to everyone. Of course, you can always read a few pages at Amazon or check out an excerpt at the book’s website.