Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Review: Omphalos by Mark Patton


Publication Date: December 5, 2014
Crooked Cat Publications
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 312
ISBN: 978-1-910510-06-3

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.



Omphalos is not put together as I thought it would be.  I figured there would be six stories.  There were.  I figured the stories would be discrete - one entire tale following another entire tale in some sort of chronological order.  There were not.  I figured there would be some sort of spotlighted, blinking neon sign marking the omphalos (the commonality) in each story.  There was not.  I thought the word omphalos and its definition would be displayed for those unfamiliar with the word (such as myself).

Thank goodness I was wrong on all counts.

I don't read to find out what I already know.  I read to be educated and/or entertained.  That's why Patton's Omphalos is an outstanding example of the type of book I like to read.  The stories were interwoven with each other, traveling back and forth through time.  Often a relic or item from one time would appear in another story as well.  The constants in all stories were a location (Jersey), and a little bird (probably not the same bird each time, though).

Patton does an admirable job of giving his readers a real sense of each time period.  Enough of each character's story was given at a time to carry me though to their next appearance.  Nuggets of the over-arching story could be discovered in each tale, subtle, unearthed as I read through the pages.  It was like being on an archaeological dig - something I've always wanted to do.

Time spent reading Omphalos is time well-spent.  I got 6000 years of world and human history.  I got to read the amazing words of author Mark Patton.  It's as if I got to be the little bird that circled the tree in each time (once, though, I think it was a rock).  I saw glimpses of life in each time period as I rounded the near side of the tree.  Now and again I would reach into some of the bark (or a space in the rock) and pull out a delicious morsel.

Ompalos should be on everyone's TBR (to-be-read) list.



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).

For more information please visit Mark Patton’s website and blog. You can also connect with him on Twitter and Goodreads.


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(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of Omphalos from the author and publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)


  1. Thanks, LuAnn! I'll have more to say about the birds on my own blog in the near future. The one on the rock gives Master Wascius a great idea for his own next book ("Le Roman de Rou").

  2. TBRing it! And glad you enjoyed reading this book, LuAnn :)

    1. Happy to hear it, Shilpa. I believe you will enjoy it! :O)

  3. That's a whole lot of history in one book. It's been awhile since I read a book like that, but I do enjoy this type of fiction.

    1. Well, they say 'time flies when you're having fun'. It certainly did with Omphalos, Medeia! :O)