The Hidden by Tobias Hill

the hiddenThe Hidden: A Novel by Tobias Hill (Harper Perennial, October 13, 2009) [first published in Great Britain in 2009 by Faber and Faber], 368 pages

Ben Mercer runs away from Oxford to escape his failed marriage. He eventually ends up at a dig in Sparta, which is appropriate, since he’s been studying archaeology; maybe he’ll actually write a thesis after all? But the dig, like so many small groups are, is fraught with drama. One side says the other people can’t be trusted, the other says the same about the first. Nothing is as it seems….

I really wanted to love this book. It’s about archaeology, it’s set in Greece, the author is a poet, and the book was originally published in England. What’s not to love, right? Well, a few things, unfortunately.

The Hidden reminded me, at least in some ways, of that Barry Unsworth book I read earlier this year, Land of Marvels, in that: 1) it pretends to be a mystery/thriller but there’s no action in the first half, at least; and 2) it’s more about relational drama.

It also has pages and pages of history thrown in in spots, which disrupted the rhythm of the narrative for me. The content was needed for the story to succeed, but I wish it had been integrated more effectively.

I got really irritated by Ben. He’s filled with self-doubt and -loathing. The emotional timbre of the book struck me as very adolescent.

A couple notes on format: The Hidden has some very long chapters; I counted one at 50-plus pages. The book doesn’t have quote marks — dialogue is usually prefaced by a dash — and for the most part is lacking indicators such as he said/she said.

On a more positive note: The Hidden has a strong sense of place. Sparta is kind of a character in the book. It was evocative. Also: The concept for the book is incredibly clever and so much fun. These are really big pros. Unfortunately, though, they didn’t outshine the cons for me.

About the author
Tobias Hill is a British poet and author. His earlier novels look interesting to me: Underground, The Love of Stones, and The Cryptographer; I’d be interested in reading another book by Hill.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for The Hidden by Tobias Hill.

Other reviews
Book Magic
Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Luxury Reading

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


11 responses to “The Hidden by Tobias Hill

  1. I am about 220 pages into this and I agree with a lot of what you have said. I wonder what id anything will change for me as I finish up the book. I didn’t mind the emotional drama aspect of the books because I like those kinds of novels which explore relationships, but I definitely think it dragged on a bit too long considering that this is billed as a mystery/intrigue kind of story.

  2. This reminded me that I have a copy of The Love of Stones in my library that I never got to. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this book. I like history and a strong sense of place in novels, and it makes me even more curious to read a book when others find weaknesses. So if I enjoy Stones I’ll try this one too. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  3. Interesting… I was offered this one too but I didnt know if it was a books for me so I passed on it. What you are mentioning here would have more than likely thrown me off too.

    I would have enjoyed the history part I think. 🙂

  4. I’m not too good at history, so this is probably not the best book for me.

  5. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea, but thanks for being on the tour! You are echoing issues others have voiced about this book. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Words from my reading « Word Lily

  7. I can really relate to what you said about Land of Marvels. It’s one of the few books that I gave up on this year.

  8. I felt pretty much the same way about this book. I never read anyone’s reviews until after I’m done and it’s sort of funny how we both didn’t like the same things!!

  9. Pingback: The Hidden, by Tobias Hill | Linus's Blanket

  10. Pingback: Words from my reading « Word Lily

  11. Pingback: Answering your questions « Word Lily

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