A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne review – an ambitious era-hopping epic | The Guardian

Characters are reincarnated as a visionary craftsman explores his destiny in a story that roams from ancient Rome to Elizabethan London and beyond At the heart of this quirky, ambitious and ultimately disappointing book is a very simple story. A sensitive boy grows up in the shadow of a violent father and aspires to be a craftsman. As he grows older, he is more successful as an artist than a human being. Finding himself betrayed by a cousin he’s close to, he is consumed by the need for revenge.In A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, the prolific Irish author John Boyne plays out this story over a two millennia stretch of history. In each of its 50 chapters, the unnamed narrator, his father M, mother F, brother J, sister A, betrayer H and so on, are reincarnated in different places and historical periods, moving from ancient Rome to Asia Minor, the Horn of Africa, sixth-century Afghanistan, 10th-century Iceland, Elizabethan London, Japan during the Tokugawa shogunate and many more. The costumes and scenery change, but the essential set of relationships remains the same. It’s a bold conceit and it’s impressive that Boyne pulls it off at all. Continue reading…

Characters are reincarnated as a visionary craftsman explores his destiny in a story that roams from ancient Rome to Elizabethan London and beyond

At the heart of this quirky, ambitious and ultimately disappointing book is a very simple story. A sensitive boy grows up in the shadow of a violent father and aspires to be a craftsman. As he grows older, he is more successful as an artist than a human being. Finding himself betrayed by a cousin he’s close to, he is consumed by the need for revenge.

In A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, the prolific Irish author John Boyne plays out this story over a two millennia stretch of history. In each of its 50 chapters, the unnamed narrator, his father M, mother F, brother J, sister A, betrayer H and so on, are reincarnated in different places and historical periods, moving from ancient Rome to Asia Minor, the Horn of Africa, sixth-century Afghanistan, 10th-century Iceland, Elizabethan London, Japan during the Tokugawa shogunate and many more. The costumes and scenery change, but the essential set of relationships remains the same. It’s a bold conceit and it’s impressive that Boyne pulls it off at all.

Continue reading…


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