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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anachronistic fun
This is without doubt an enormously enjoyable, witty and informative book. It is also curiously dated - William Dalrymple reads here more like a young Evelyn Waugh, or possibly Graham Greene in Travels With My Aunt, than a 19 year old at the end of the 20th century. However, each to his own: personally I still enjoyed the account, despite occasionally feeling a slight...
Published on 22 April 2002

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but could have been better
In the mid 1980s, William Dalrymple (then in his early 20s) made a journey retracing the steps of Marco Polo's famous journey during the 1200s, from the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the site of Shangdu (or Xanadu, as is better known in literature), the summer palace of Kublai Khan, in Outer Mongolia, China. In reality, though, since Soviet Central Asia was...
Published on 10 Aug 2008 by Andres C. Salama


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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anachronistic fun, 22 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
This is without doubt an enormously enjoyable, witty and informative book. It is also curiously dated - William Dalrymple reads here more like a young Evelyn Waugh, or possibly Graham Greene in Travels With My Aunt, than a 19 year old at the end of the 20th century. However, each to his own: personally I still enjoyed the account, despite occasionally feeling a slight desire to shake some of the pompous Empire-builder out of him (his later books have lost some of this tendency, apart from the 'amusing native' sketches which I found rather overdone in City of Djinns). One of the features of In Xanadu that I found most endearing was the fact that Dalrymple seemed, for much of the trip, to be having a thoroughly nasty time, and wasn't afraid to lose face by telling us so ('Latakia is a hole.') - as my experience is that much travel consists of being smelly, tired and miserable it was reassuring to find that someone else shared this viewpoint too. However, Dalrymple's overwhelming talent is definitely to convey a vivid sense of the places he's been, and In Xanadu displays that in spades. Really astonishly good for a first book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable journey by a gifted writer, 9 Aug 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
'In Xanadu' is both highly entertaining and impeccably researched. The success of a travelogue often hinges on the likeableness of the author, and William Dalrymple is affable, down to earth and funny. The tale of his remarkable journey through Asia is enriched by his ability to bring to life historical accounts and scholarly details. He also makes some fascinating discoveries on route, and the whole book is bursting with enthusiasm. The only thing I feel lets him down is a tendency to resort to racial stereotyping and generalising, which results in some rather dubious comments - otherwise an excellent book.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Intelligent Fun, 1 Dec 2002
This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
I first discovered William Dalrymple when my aunt gave me a copy of "From The Holy Mountain" when I went to Israel, which I greatly enjoyed. So, when I spotted "In Xanadu" in a bookstore, I decided I had to read it.
In Xanadu is WD's first book, and, I think, also his best. The style is slightly fresher than in his later works. The jokes seem to be more natural, and there are more of them too...a good thing, as Dalrymple has a wonderuful sense of humor, especially in the little ridiculous details of life. The book is also amazingly well researched, and I learnt an enormous amount from it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but could have been better, 10 Aug 2008
By 
Andres C. Salama (Buenos Aires, Argentina) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
In the mid 1980s, William Dalrymple (then in his early 20s) made a journey retracing the steps of Marco Polo's famous journey during the 1200s, from the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the site of Shangdu (or Xanadu, as is better known in literature), the summer palace of Kublai Khan, in Outer Mongolia, China. In reality, though, since Soviet Central Asia was then barred to western travel, he deviated in part from Marco Polo's route, going through the Baluchi desert, in southern Iran and Pakistan, and then up the Indus river, and through the then newly opened Karakoram highway to western China, instead of traveling to China through Samarkand and other cities in Central Asia. The book itself is a mixed bag, there is some interesting things in it (at least he did some homework in terms of research) but there are far too many of the sort of banal, smug and self-centered comments and experiences you see in much of the travel writing of westerners as they go through the third world.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Xanadu by William Dalrymple, 23 Oct 2006
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This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
I was encouraged to read this book by a friend - Travel is not really my bag BUT I LOVED IT!!! Once started I couldn't put it down. The dry humour greatly amused me. I loved the mix of interesting historical asides to a modern travelogue. I was intrigued by the descriptions of the people William Dalrymple met on his travels. Whether this is your first travel book or simply the most recent I don't see how you can fail to enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful story of a fascinating quest, 30 Sep 2013
By 
T. D. Dawson "tdawson735" (UK) - See all my reviews
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William Dalrymple tells the fascinating story of his attempt to follow, as closely as possible, the route Marco Polo took (in 1271) from Jerusalem to Kubla Khan's legendary summer Palace of Xanadu, close to today's Beijing.

Marco Polo's route had, apparently, never been successfully followed: Afghanistan in the 19th century was considered too dangerous whilst, when China began opening up in the early 1980s, Afghanistan was closed because of the Soviet invasion. When WD set out on his overland journey in 1987 travelling through Iran and Syria was actively `discouraged' whilst the (then newly opened) mountain road from Pakistan runs close to some highly sensitive and militarily-restricted areas of China.

William Dalrymple tells a frequently amusing story of the trials and tribulations he and his companions encountered on the journey. He clearly has an in-depth knowledge of the history, religions and cultures of the countries they passed through and this, plus his humour and style of writing, makes the book a highly enjoyable read. Their attempts to disguise themselves as locals - in order to avoid too many questions from Tehran's religious community and, a little later, from the Chinese military - are both colourful and amusing. Particularly the time they spent attempting to hide in a load of coal being carried by (what else?) a coal lorry...

The knowledge that they finally reach Xanadu won't spoil the story and the way the last part of the journey was 'wangled' is close to hilarious. But, although they were forbidden to take photographs, they managed to 'lift' a piece of a roof tile which was subsequently dated as being a 13th century Mongol artifact; it came close to establishing that they'd successfully reached the remains of Xanadu.

Just one criticism. The Kindle copy would be vastly improved by a map of the route they took...

Why only four stars? I've recently read the first two parts of Patrick Leigh Fermor's journey on foot, in 1933/34 and when he was 18, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. I found it impossible not to compare Leigh Fermor's style of writing, his knowledge of the history, religion and culture of the areas he travels through with that of William Dalrymple and, on that (probably very unfair) basis, 'In Xanadu' gains four stars whilst Patrick Leigh Fermor's trilogy - the third part has just been published - justifiably deserves that extra star.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasure Dome, 24 Oct 2006
By 
Hans Norton "Hans" (London, England, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
A joy to read. There are few writers who can invoke an atmosphere, a setting, a genius locii with such taut writing and so little persiflage. Having been to at least a few of the places Dalrymple visited, it was difficult not to yell out "Yes, it really was like that". So many travel writers are guilty of at least one of the following - a) to patronise the reader "Look how clever I am", or b) patronise the locals "aren't they a funny bunch", or c) prove they are unable to understand themselves, never mind others. Some writers manage to fall into all three traps. Dalrymple is seldom, very seldom, responsible for any such rubbish. Finally, to tie his travels into that great, universal theme of The Quest is a stroke of genius. Few have been able to dance so lightly and with such gusto over words. In short, one of the great travel books. Pity he went to Oxford, but Fate always ensures no-one is perfect.

Hans Norton
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5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, 10 Mar 2014
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A most wonderful story of adventure and courage, crossing Asia in search of Marco Polo' Xanadu. Beautiful writing and cinematographic images. Definitely a must read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars a trip from the Mediterean to Peking, 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
Picaresque, a little puerile or studenticose. But well worth reading. Book gives many pictures of famous buildings in Asia and aa pleasant story about a very frugal voyage.
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4.0 out of 5 stars In Xanadu, 12 Jan 2014
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This review is from: In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) (Paperback)
Book was slightly delayed but I was kept informed and when it arrived the book was in very good condition but possibly the photographs were a little disappointing in paperback form (I had previously read the hardback)
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In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo)
In Xanadu: A Quest (Flamingo) by William Dalrymple (Paperback - 20 Sep 1999)
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