review: timbuctoo

04 October 2012

book info:
ages: 15 and up
grades: 9-10 and up
years: 11 and up
on sale: now!
copy from: the author! signed too! Thank you :)
pages: 544

title: Timbuctoo
author: Tahir Shah

For centuries, the greatest explorers of their age were dispatched from the power-houses of Europe London, Paris and Berlin on a quest unlike any other: To be the first white Christian to visit, and then to sack, the fabled metropolis of Timbuctoo.
Most of them never returned alive.
At the height of the Timbuctoo mania, two hundred years ago, it was widely believed that the elusive Saharan city was fashioned in entirety from the purest gold everything from the buildings to the cobble-stones, from the buckets to the bedsteads was said to be made from it.
One winter night in 1815, a young illiterate American seaman named Robert Adams was discovered half-naked and starving on the snow-bound streets of London. His skin seared from years in the African desert, he claimed to have been a guest of the King of Timbuctoo.
Thought of an American claiming anything let alone the greatest prize in exploration was abhorrent in the extreme. Closing ranks against their unwelcome American guest, the British Establishment lampooned his tale, and began a campaign of discrediting him, one that continues even today.
An astonishing tale based on true-life endurance, Tahir Shah s epic novel Timbuctoo brilliantly recreates the obsessions of the time, as a backdrop for one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Timbuctoo will be released on July 5, 2012. This is a limited edition hardback, very very high spec, and designed along the lines of the travel books of two centuries ago. It weighs 2 kilos (almost 4.5 lbs), has fabulous marbled endpapers, a silk bookmark, a pouch at the rear with inserts, and six huge fold-out maps. The paper is wood-free, and the cover embossed with raised gold type.

In addition, each copy contains the clues needed to begin a treasure hunt that could result in locating one of four golden treasures of Timbuctoo. The book is a thing of extraordinary beauty, and the kind of book that will last two hundred years or more

It's taken me a month to get through the first pages. Needless to say, I didn't like the book very much. I've been reading for soo long these past few days trying to get it finished, and occasionally skimming. What I didn't like was all the names. There are many titles thrown out, and the names dominate the whole story. I have a tiny bit of sense of setting, and a wee bit on character, but nothing else. I wasn't led into the story, but rather thrown into it. I had to salvage bits and pieces to really understand what was going on. This American reached Timbuctoo before any other Englishman, and was the first Christian to ever set eyes on the land. The Englishmen want to know his story: they want to know if there's gold to be found. It's a good idea, and I was really interested in the American's story and what he narrated: that part was great! But everything else felt like mush and names. I had a vague sense of action while reading and felt very bored and dreary.

Straying away from the negatives: what I did like. The original story, the inserted maps and letters that gave me the feeling that I was part of the story itself. The pop-outs and fold-outs were really my most favourite part. One can actually join a treasure hunt, in the book! I love how interactive it is!The book itself is very beautiful and would look great on anyone's shelf. I also liked the narration of the American's journey to Timbuctoo and the "side story" of Clara, the daughter of the Viscount who houses the American at the start of the story. I also felt very English reading it, mainly because the author is English, but there you go :)

I didn't enjoy the overall story, which I think is most important, though there were aspects I really liked. Unfortunately, my ratings are based off the story itself, so therefore, one and a half trees. I'm sad to give such a rating, but that's just it.

PS I would love to thank Mr Shah for the opportunity to review this book: it's very beautiful and he was very generous in giving it to me for review :)

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