In a world where most authors, other than the avowedly academic, appear to strive to fall within the neat categories of marketing departments, how refreshing it is to come across a book which resolutely, though unconsciously, defies such pidgeonholing.
Informed throughout by a wonderful sense of humour, "A Visit From Voltaire" is by turns a description, both serious and hilarious, of family life in a new and unfamiliar environment; an introduction to 18th Century cultural life; and, via a series of vignettes linking similar events in different times (the Author's and Voltaire's), a comment on political and religious corruption and intolerance.
Above all though, "A Visit From Voltaire" has, at its heart, the development from rocky beginnings of a wonderful friendship between the Author and Voltaire - Voltaire emerges not only as the champion of justice and tolerance that we are all aware of, but as a delightfully idiosyncratic and human character, fully capable of moving between his era and ours, where he finds his ideals still under attack and where his unflagging energy and honesty are still as necessary as ever. Whether adapting to the internet or revisiting old haunts in London, his zest for life is contagious. The development of the friendship between the Author and Voltaire is beautifully handled and I was as sad as the Author when they finally parted. How I wish he had stayed. I had so much I wanted to ask him.
As with all good books, I was inspired to do a number of things - learn more about the man and his century (a very helpful bibliography is provided); renew my contact with Amnesty International; Revisit Bernstein and take a look at my wardrobe.
All this in addition to a wonderful read. How could you resist?