Email this review


Too many people think of Sir Max--if they think of him at all--as Mr. Agatha Christie. Readers of these flat but gracious memoirs, however, will forthwith recognize him as one of the century's most distinguished archaeologists, even if they learn little here about his inner life or anything much about his late, great wife-digmate not already on show in her Autobiography. The ""lighter side of archaeological life,"" as Mallowan reminds us, has been delightfully covered in Christie's Come Tell Me How You Live; Max's book instead carefully recounts and evaluates the pre-War excavation at Ur (he assisted Leonard Woolley), Nine-veh (under Campbell Thompson), and northeast Syria sites (his own digs)--and Mallowan's crowning life's work: twelve years (1949-1960) at Nimrud. Amateur devotees of archaeology will revel in these professional journals, with their historical/Biblical references, their mounds, ziggurats, ivories, pottery treasures, surprise appearances of metalwork, and layer-by-layer datings of civilization. Still, Mallowan does not write with enough drama or personality to engage the neophyte. Nor do his recollections of WW II service in North Africa quite take off. And as for shy Agatha--she appears occasionally in the dig accounts, usually as the author of topical, humorous ""odes,"" and receives four of her own chapters: an adoring but reticent mini-biography with rambling appreciations of her craft--familiar and bland remarks except for the emphasis on Christie's moral message and the discussion of her neglected play Akhnaton. Mallowan has obviously lived a fascinating life and shared a very special marriage; these dry memoirs, alas, capture only a hint of either.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1978
Publisher: Dodd, Mead