Review: The Stonehenge Letters by Harry Karlinsky

Title: The Stonehenge Letters

The Stonehenge lettersAuthor: Harry Karlinsky

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Harper Collins UK

The Blurb

A remarkable new novel from the Wellcome Trust longlisted author.

While digging through the Nobel Archives in Stockholm, trying to figure out why his hero, Sigmund Freud, never received a Nobel Prize, a psychiatrist makes an unusual discovery.

Among the unsolicited self-nominations in the museum’s ‘Crackpot’ file there are six letters addressed to Mr Ragnar Sohlman, executor of Alfred Nobel’s will. Remarkably, all but one has been written by a Nobel laureate – including Rudyard Kipling, Ivan Pavlov, Teddy Roosevelt and Marie Curie. Each letter attempts to explain why and how Stonehenge was constructed. Diligent research eventually uncovers that Alfred Nobel, intrigued by a young woman’s obsession with the mysterious landmark, added a secret codicil to his will:

A prize – reserved exclusively for Nobel laureates – was to be awarded to the person who can solve the mystery of Stonehenge.

Weaving together a wealth of primary documents – photos, letters, wills – The Stonehenge Letters is a wryly documented archive of a fascinating covert competition, complete with strange but illuminating submissions and a contentious prize-awarding process.

But is this fact or is this fiction?

The Review

Have you ever wondered how Stonehenge happened to become Stonehenge? This mystical circle of stones has fascinated people for as long as it records began. It is this mystery that is the forefront of Harry Karlinsky’s book The Stonehenge Letters.

The story is told from through various correspondences all linking back to Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel prizes. And what sometimes reads as a factual text is in fact a fictional interpretation of events.

Firstly, let me say I really enjoyed this book. I was fascinated by the facts that were included and intrigued by the question of Stonehenge’s existence and indeed the thought processes of the people who tried to pose possible answers to this mystery – the likes of Madame Curie and Rudyard Kipling among others. However, I did become completely discombobulated by the mixture of fact and fiction. The Stonehenge Letters reads like fact but it is fiction. You have to adjust your way of reading and accepting the information given.

Furthermore, the tenuous link to Freud seemed misplaced. Initially it is given as a bit of backs story into the research of Nobel prize nominees but it goes no further than that and could have probably been omitted without consequence to the rest of the story.

If you take this book as it is, a fictional account of a historical figure then you will find the facts and information entertaining. However, I personally feel more could have been made of this book had it been presented more like a fictional text.

The Stonehenge Letters by Harry Karlinsky is available now.

3 Stars

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