Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 12, 2013

Sensational Snippets: Love’s Obsession (2013), by Judy Powell

Love's ObsessionI’ve only just started this book, and all I know about it is the blurb:

Love’s Obsession is the story of a brilliant yet flawed individual, a man with a passionate devotion to the island of Cyprus and its archaeology. Damaged by his time as a German prisoner of war and obsessed by the need to own the past, Jim Stewart was the first person to teach archaeology at an Australian university. Although archaeology was moving from the private pastime of wealthy men to a professional academic pursuit, Stewart was never able to completely make this transition.

The story is also that of his wife, Eve. Devoted to his memory and herself trained as an archaeologist, she worked for nearly fifty years after his death – living alone in a dilapidated house in a village on the edge of the Blue Mountains – to complete her husband’s work and ensure his legacy.

Based on never-before seen personal papers, Love’s Obsession is a fine addition to the story of archaeology in Australia, and a vivid portrayal of love and devotion, of obsession and determination.

But from the moment I started reading the book at breakfast this morning, I knew I was going to love reading it, and I just have to share this exquisite writing:

The island of Cyprus emerges uneasily from the blue waters of the eastern Mediterranean, geographically closer to Turkey and Lebanon than to Greece.  For thousands of years it has been within the orbit of great powers – Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Ottomans – but never at their centre.  The island’s position at the edge of the Eastern Mediterranean makes it strategically important, so it has rarely been the ruler of its own fate.

Cyprus is dry and barren limestone country with white beaches looped around the coasts and a wide open plain, the Mesaoria, which cuts the island in two from east to  west.  In the middle of this windswept and featureless fertile central plain squats the walled city of Nicosia, or Levkosia, a medieval city of moats, walls and gateways.  Built by a mathematician, Nicosia is a circular city with twelve bastions, its geometry only apparent in plan view.  The city looks inwards.  No navigable river, harbour or natural feature determines its placement, other than its position at the centre of the rich agricultural Mesaoria.

Two mountain ranges stretch across the island from east to west.  In the north, the narrow Kyrenia Range soars up out of the plain and looms over the northern coastline.  In huge unlikely humps the mountain ropes along the top third of the island.  The country is stripped bare, bones bleached, flesh cut away.  The Kyrenia Range sprouts castles like the Mesaoria sprouts wheat.  Leaning against the jagged rocks you are never sure if they are part of the mountain or the remains of a wall.  In the south, the Troodos Mountains rise above nearly a quarter of the island.  This is a greener, gentler landscape.  Monasteries nestle in the mountain folds among forests of native cedar.  The minerals of this area have been the source of the island’s wealth for four thousand years and the slopes weep red copper mining slag.  (p. 11)

What strikes me about this writing is the author’s use of vivid verbs: looped, squats, sprouts, nestle, weep.

I bet travel agents will be snowed under with enquiries about Cyprus now!

Author: Judy Powell
Title: Love’s Obsession, The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart
Publisher: Wakefield Press, 2013
ISBN: 9781743052358
Source: Review copy courtesy of Wakefield Press.

Fishpond: Love’s Obsession: The Lives and Archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart
Or direct from Wakefield Press.


  1. The description of |is almost poetic! So rich!


    • Hi Celestine, good to hear from you:)
      Tell me, please, what is the reaction to Nelson Mandela’s death in the mass media in other African countries?


      • Hmm, Lisa, well asked! I haven’t done any research but there has been some concerns that African countries are not showing that much empathy like the west. In Ghana, the TV has been showing some coverage of the funeral and clips of Mandela’s life sporadically. Our president was at the funeral though. Infact I should say our reaction has been poor. And I wonder why!


        • Just guessing, but I think there might be two reasons: one is that some African countries have a poor record on democratic elections and would rather not draw attention to a successful African democracy, and the other is that perhaps we in the west tend to mythologise celebrity?


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