Dual timeline novels often fail: one strand is more interesting than the other, or the links between the two are contrived. Not here. Both stories are superbly told and share the same preoccupation — the coexistence of cruelty and creative beauty. Cooper offers no trite conclusions, just a welcome thoughtfulness at a time of so much noise and fury over statues. When Isis terrorists smash Assyrian statues, Katya weeps — and so did I.
Siblings Aurya and Sharo go on a voyage of discovery to Nineveh; 2,600 years later archaeologist Katya joins a dig in Mosul against the backdrop of Isis insurgence that can only end in trauma. Naturally, these stories intertwine – perhaps a little too obviously – but Cooper’s trips to Iraq and his historical interests (he hosts the excellent Fall of Civilisations podcast) lend All Our Broken Idols authenticity. The novel underlines the fact that people in Iraq have always suffered – but always fought, too, for their identity and culture; the greatest treasure of all.