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465 pages, Hardcover
First published July 23, 2020
A judgement all those years ago that the integrity of my art was more important than the welfare of a stranger had led to so much misery and death.
‘There have been some people of late writing letters to the literary pages complaining of authors who do not share the same experiences with their characters.’
I considered this. ‘If they did,’ I said, ‘would that not be an autobiography?’
‘It would, yes, and their argument is entirely fallacious, of course. But it’s gaining some ground. Recently, another writer of my acquaintance was spat at in the street for writing about a Russian, when he himself is English.’
“When he took it away, a trace of blood was left in its wake, a deadly deposit, and I’ve always wondered whether some residue of his crimes remained indelibly upon my soul, a tattoo invisible to all but the eyes of the gods, a reminder of the massacre of the innocents that was taking place as I filled my lungs with air for the first time.”The second chapter moves to Turkey in 41 AD with the narrator’s father, now named Marek as a Roman legionnaire, under a mission for Emperor Caligula. Many of the scenes and actions illustrate that some darker facets of human existence are doomed to repeat over and over. A life of violence and predatory sex seems to follow the characters as they advance through eras, including many historical figures and events such as Julius Caesar, Shakespeare, Christopher Columbus, the Plague, and Tsunamis.
Oh Boy! How do you rate a virtually Unputdownable!....Absolutely Extraordinary! read with a beyond weird....out of this world last chapter? Hmmmmm.....Overall I thought the epilogue fine, it actually made me laugh, albeit I prefer to keep out of my one true source of escape from reality....especially during a pandemic....especially during a tumultuous A TRAVELER AT THE GATES OF WISDOM actually did that....99% of the time.
Anyway, so much good stuff here......
"Someday I shall live among the stars."
A TRAVELER AT THE GATES OF WISDOM was an engrossing and fascinating read from about chapter four on (when I got the hang of it). It's a most unusual....one-of-a-kind....read that follows a traveler and his family (with name variations consistent with country) all around the world beginning in Palestine A.D. 1 and ending with (a bizarre, out of sync, inconsistent final chapter...for me) of USA - A.D. 2016, followed by quite an epilogue that takes us through 2080.
It's an amazingly imaginative story of life through the ages with love, loss, betrayal....and murder(s). (characters do well to keep their heads on their shoulders in this story!)
There are apparitions, earthquakes, storms at sea, lots of history and historical people of the time, the plague and the extreme ugliness of slavery. There's even a bit of magic and a mysteriously respected blind elder with some mighty special powers of her own. (Whew!)....the traveler thanks you! There's some absolutely hysterical one-liners that Boyne does so well....like the traveler's brother who admits he "prefers the welcoming valley to the pillar and stones" and another young man with a very unhappy forced marriage who "wants to pluck his eyes from his head" when he sees his new wife in a state of undress for the first time and describes a laugh-out-loud repulsive (to him) marriage act....or rather non-act of "trying to force a sleeping worm through a keyhole." Oh. My. Gosh. I could not stop laughing or reading these perfect, seriously written, descriptive and all-consuming words that continue throughout the story.
And most of all, could not wait to find out, in this story of a constantly changing world and "so many lives to live" what happens in the on-going search for vengeance against the atrocious acts.....of a man who walks on sticks.
So....in the end, yes....despite the last chapter and that part of the epilogue that put me off, still a 5 Star read!
Don't miss out on this one! One of John Boyne's best. (for me)
"What fascinated me the most, however, were the stars. It thrilled me to lie outside when the sun had set, staring up at the constellations in the night sky, drawing imaginary lines between each shining instant and wondering who, if anyone, might live within those bright patterns. In my dreams, I floated among them, a traveler in the darkness, looking down at the world from an orbit that I was still too young to comprehend."