This book follows Marco Polo’s life from birth to death. We all know of his famed opus Travels, recounting his travels to China, South East Asia and I...moreThis book follows Marco Polo’s life from birth to death. We all know of his famed opus Travels, recounting his travels to China, South East Asia and India. He left with his father and uncle at the age of 17 in 1271. They returned 24 years later. What is fact and what is fiction of his stories, written in a Genoese prison with the collaboration of the romance writer and notary Rustichello of Pisa? This book tells of the events told in those stories and is a careful study in an attempt to distinguish between fact and fiction. For centuries that related seemed all too fanciful to be true, but has been proven to be true. The original manuscript, which was written in bad French and of which there are numerous variants and missing sections, is another impediment in discovering what is true and what is imaginary. The Mongol Empire and Kublai Khan and its demise are all covered in this book in minute detail. How did they get home, and what happened afterwards? Why was Marco imprisoned? Had Marco never been imprisoned it is doubtful that his tales would remain today. This is all interestingly covered, except that sometimes there are really too many details. There are many, many quotes from the original manuscripts that make the reading disjointed and dry. There are pretty pictures, notes and an index.
To appreciate this book you must be interested in learning not only about Marco Polo but also the Mongol Empire. (less)
With this book I got into the head of Marie Antoinette. The author did all the research and based on the known facts delivered what she thought was go...moreWith this book I got into the head of Marie Antoinette. The author did all the research and based on the known facts delivered what she thought was going on in Marie Antoinette's head. She convinced me. At the end of the book is a list of source material, "A Brief Timeline of Events" and an interesting conversation with the author. Don't skip this; it is really good.
The historical facts are clearly presented. You follow Marie from her coming to France as a naïve fourteen year old to her death at the guillotine. Toinette, as she is affectionately called by those close to her, has been maligned by history; I appreciated hearing a more balanced view. I empathized with her. I saw how she matured. I really did suffer with her when she couldn't become pregnant, through no fault of her own. That struggle felt very real to me, and when her husband, the Dauphin, finally did become aroused the author's lines beautifully portray the conception. You understood why before she had turned to gambling and frivolity.
Quite simply, I like the sensual writing. I like the clear presentation of the historical facts. Never are they boringly presented. I believe we see here Marie Antoinette's view of what happened around her in the years leading up to her death. For me, only through empathy with historical characters does history become meaningful.
After 20 pages: Some authors fit some readers. I very much like how this author writes. Mmm mmm, good stuff. I like the descriptive lines. I feel that I am in young Antoinette's head. I see her world from her point of view. This author studies the known facts and does not change them. Antoinette did not say, when told that the people of eighteenth century France were starving, "If they have no bread then let them eat cake!", and consequently that is not to be found in this book. What is found are the lines she did say. I have stupidly put off reading this book b/c royalty and historical fiction so often disappoint me. (less)
This is a very nteresting book, but it is not at all how I imagined it after reading the Barnes & Nobles review. So beware! The facts presented in...moreThis is a very nteresting book, but it is not at all how I imagined it after reading the Barnes & Nobles review. So beware! The facts presented in the book do NOT seem to be collected from the author's extensive bicycling throughout France, but rather reaped from extensive library research. It is primarily a history book, albeit filled with lots of interesting information. Lots of information on mapping. At times I was drowned by all the facts - a bit of editing would have definitely helped. You do NOT travel around France from area to area. The book does NOT systematicly study different regions. It does NOT attempt to point out the particular cultural characteristics of different regions nor how these characteristics differ from region to region. That is what I thought I would be getting! So yeah, I am a bit disappointed.(less)
This book is a MUST-READ! If I could give it more than 5 stars I would. Why? Because it is a marvelous balancing act of the stories, myths and philoso...moreThis book is a MUST-READ! If I could give it more than 5 stars I would. Why? Because it is a marvelous balancing act of the stories, myths and philosophical beliefs of Afghanistan and a clear presentation of historical facts, Afghanistan's passage from the Soviet take-over in 1980 to the mujahidin control 1992-1996 and thereafter Afghanistan under the Talibans through 2001 and 9/11. The author's struggle wih her own Afghan identity is a very important part of the book. It helps the reader further understand the Afghan character. Even better than A Thousand Splendid Suns. (less)
Heinrich Harrer, the author of this book, was a mountaineer and an adventurer. He was the first to climb the North Face of the Eiger Mountain in Switz...moreHeinrich Harrer, the author of this book, was a mountaineer and an adventurer. He was the first to climb the North Face of the Eiger Mountain in Switzerland. He did this int the 1930s. This book, originally published in 1953, is an adventure classic that recounts Heinrich Harrer's 1943 escape from a British internment camp in India, his daring trek across the Himalayas, and his seven years in Tibet, coming to an end with the Chinese invasion. He became a dear friend of the fourteenth Dali Lama.
Definitely interesting, but in that the narrations follows the time line of the events it was repetitive at points, i.e. a particular theme was discussed many times. One example of this is how white scarves are used in Tibet as a means of expressing respect and honor. People were handing out scares right and left......I kept wondering what was done with all these scarves. Finally near the end of the book it was mentioned that they were reused and handed out to others. And this leads to my next complaint. Listeners are left with questions. Terms are not clearly defined so you search for understanding, to make sense of what you are told. At one point, my husband and I, we were both listening to the audio book together, did not agree on who had been killed! Neurotic as I am to understand EXACTLY what has happened I rewound and listened again and again. Finally I understood. In fact I was right in the mini battle with my husband, but the point is that what you hear/read can easily be misinterpreted.
So the book isn't perfect, but don't let that determine whether to pick it up or not. The reader follows an exciting adventure and there is a lot to learn here about old Tibet, before the Chinese invasion in 1950.
One other point which I found intriguing is how there are so many rules to be followed.......but there is always a way to get around them. In the Buddhist philosophy no creature can be killed, so of course meat cannot be eaten. But, but, but, but people do need some meat so it is quite handy if the people in neighboring Nepal can provide this......then all is OK! This bothered me tremendously. Time and time again, the Nepalese were handy to have to do that which the Buddhist faith did not allow to be done in Tibet.And it bothered me that in sport events where it was determined that the Dali Lama must win, he of course always did win. Is that real competition? Never mind, just my own thoughts troubling me.
It is amusing to picture a dike being built and a worm appearing on the shovel of dirt. That worm had to be carefully placed aside so no harm came to it. This all sounds so sweet, but to function as a nation bribery and conniving were necessary.
I am very glad I read this book. I learned a lot, and it made me see into the reality of a Buddhist culture. It is very hard to get a view into Lhasa, the Forbidden City. (less)
Have your read the novels of Ivan Doig – those, such as The Whistling Season and/or Dancing at the Rascal Fair? If you have and enjoyed his writing, t...moreHave your read the novels of Ivan Doig – those, such as The Whistling Season and/or Dancing at the Rascal Fair? If you have and enjoyed his writing, then I believe you will enjoy this too. I would recommend reading the novels first. These novels are really not novels! One comes to understand as one reads about Doig’s and his father’s and his maternal grandmother’s life, as they are presented in this biography, that his fiction talks of his own true life experiences. In his novels you get a tightly woven plot line with the extraneous information removed. You get a good story. Here in the biography you get all the details that lie behind the scenes that you remember from the stories. Many of the places and events and prime forces (weather, park authorities and ranchers) are common to both. The setting of the novels feels so genuine since it is anchored to real life events.
This book goes one step deeper. It is primarily about three people and their relationships with each other: the author, his father and his maternal grandmother. His mother died when he was very young; the role his maternal grandmother played is unusual. The feelings these three people harbored is perceptively and honestly portrayed. Again, real life is often more strange than fiction. I found the relationship between his father and his maternal grandmother ….well, you have to read the book to understand it!
Warning: if you do not enjoy Ivan Doig’s novels, you will not enjoy this book. For me, Doig’s portrayal of teachers is the high point of his writing skills, probably because he himself is no rancher, no homesteader, no sheep herder. He was a man of books.
I listened to the audio book. The narration was fine. Not exceptional, not bad, just fine. The vocabulary used is that of Montana ranchers. I didn’t understand every word, but certainly got the gist of it just fine. (less)
This is the sixth review I have written today. My review cannot do justice to this book. I am too tired. It is an excellent book. It is a completely d...moreThis is the sixth review I have written today. My review cannot do justice to this book. I am too tired. It is an excellent book. It is a completely different way of describing how two people, Jan and predominantly his wife Antonia's experiences and efforts to save Jews in Warsaw during WW2, could make such a difference.
I will quote from page 314 and 315:
" In all around three hundred people passed through the way station of the Warsaw Zoo en route to the rest of their nomadic lives. Jan always felt, and said publicly, that the real heroine of this saga was his wife, Antonia. 'She was afraid of the possible consequences,' he said to Noah Kliger, who interviewed him for the Israeli newspaper yediot Aharomot, 'she was terrified the Nazis would seek revenge agzinst us and our young son, terrified of death, and yet she kept it to herself, and helped me (with my Underground activities) and never ever asked me to stop. '"
"'Antonia was a housewife,'he told Danka Narnish of another Israeli paper 'she wasn't involved in politics or war, and was timid, and yet despite that she played a major role in saving others and never once complained about the danger.'"
"Jan said: 'I only did my duty - and if you can save somebody's life, it's your duty to try' Or 'We did it because it was the right thing to do.'
Antoniia died in 1971, her husband three years later. "
You should read this book because Jan and Antonia are two humble, yet amazing people, that should be better known. I actually believe there were many more like them that did their little bit to help others. What they did is so very important to help one unerstand and love humanity. (less)
I totally loved this book, specially the travels through China! Perhaps I shouldn't say that - the travel through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan a...moreI totally loved this book, specially the travels through China! Perhaps I shouldn't say that - the travel through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan were also fascinating. The peoples, the faiths, the customs - both over centuries passed and now today - all were discussed. Little things like the facial characteristics and body forms and hats worn were so well described. Each cultural group became an identity. I have to visit China ..... I don't know if I would be brave enough for the other countries! Wow do I admire Colin Thubron, and I must read more of his books. He makes history come alive. As a child in school, history was just dates and names - all of which w(less)
If you have read The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, you should read this book too! An exceptional book that not only records the facts but also ana...moreIf you have read The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, you should read this book too! An exceptional book that not only records the facts but also analyzes how people react and why they react in the way that they do. What seems incomprehensible behavior is better understood. So a book not only concerned with historical facts but even more importantly about people and what makes us who we are. I have a different hardcover edition which is not available on GoodReads. I prefer it. The two small children on the cover say so much......(less)
About violent non-viloence. One has to read the book to understand this phrase. Given the way this world is today, and hey it hasn't been that peacefu...moreAbout violent non-viloence. One has to read the book to understand this phrase. Given the way this world is today, and hey it hasn't been that peaceful in past times either, I recommend this book to everyone. Is there an alternative to the current mess, something that will really work? Maybe so if we start working on it NOW. Nothing works instantly, and even André Trocmé agreed that WWII was necessary. It was too late, war was necessary. Not being terribly religious myself, I mostly admired and could understand Magda Trocmé, André's wife. But they did what they did together and with all the other villagers of Le Chambon. Sometimes the book gets a bit oo "philosophical/analytical" for my tastes. Just give me the facts, don't analyze them for me. I agree with Magda's simple philosophy - you do what you have to do. Analysis is superfluous. Everyone should read this because it shows there is hope out there, if people can just cut away all the crap. This is a bit of an emotional response. Everybody should read this book - quite an eye-opener for sceptic me!(less)