A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom isn’t so much of a book as it is an experience, an experience that spans 2000 years, 47 countries, and legions of historical events.
The story begins in Palestine in A.D. 1 with King Herod’s ordered infanticide. Here we met a father, a mother, and two sons. One with his father’s violence in his blood. One who lives his mother’s artistry. One leaves. One stays. The story then jumps to Turkey, A. D. 41, followed by Romania, A.D. 105, and so the chronicle continues. Touring across time, we follow our unnamed traveller as he recounts his history of love, loss, grief, and revenge. While the world mutates and modernises around him, his destiny remains the same. It is written.
A novel of ambitious storytelling, I admit to initially feeling doubtful. However, I quickly shrugged off my apprehension, grasped hold of the intertwining themes that weave the narrative together, and let Boyne sweep me away on an epic, strangely hypnotic adventure. As we advance through time and traverse nations, we witness the universal terrors and horrors of man’s inhumanity, familial relationships, the subjugation of women, and more. Boyne explores the unchanging nature of human emotions through time, while simultaneously speaking to us about the turbulence of contemporary society.
Challenging yet captivating, this is not a book to race through. It brims with intricate details, graphic events, and Boyne’s signature thought-provoking dialogue. I may be making it sound more daunting than it is, but I will be surprised if any review could truly do this book justice. It’s impossible to string together the words to evoke Boyne’s masterful accomplishment. I can only imagine the extensive writing process and amount of research that this marvel of a novel must have required.
John Boyne has reaffirmed his place among my all-time favourite authors. Each book I have read by him has been original, inspired, often heart-breaking, and impressive to the extent that he always leaves me stunned. This book achieves this and more.
A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom is an experience; an experience that you will only truly understand by undertaking the sweeping adventure for yourself. I doubt you will have read anything quite like it.
Thank you, Doubleday and Patsy, for sending me an advanced copy in an exchange for an honest review, I’m beyond grateful for being among the first to have read this masterpiece.
Looking for some more excellent historical fiction? Read my review of How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang.
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