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Fleshing out family history: Ancestry, by Simon Mawer, reviewed

DNA test kits may have been all the rage in recent years, but how much can they really tell us about our ancestors? Cold, hard data is, by definition, neither sentimental nor sympathetic. Or so says Simon Mawer, whose latest novel asks where, in our austere conception of the past as a graveyard of artefacts, bones, facts and figures, are the personalities of the dead? ‘Where is the flesh and blood?’ Mawer is well known for expertly pillaging the treasure chest of history to serve his fiction. His previous forays into the past, such as the second-world-war-era and Man Booker-shortlisted The Glass Room of 2009, struck an admirable balance between