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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timbuctoo: A great read
If you like a story about the oppressed, the downtrodden or the outsider coming through in spite of harrowing events, grave injustices and enormous odds stacked against them; characters you love to hate; and a good old-fashioned love story, then you may well find wonderful resonances and enjoyment in Tahir Shah's epic novel, Timbuctoo. There are some anti-establishment...
Published on 24 Jun 2012 by Eric T

versus
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buy it a boy for Christmas.
(The 3 star rating is for the kindle edition, which is what I read. Timbuctoo is also available as a very handsome hardback that has attracted a mulititude of 5 star ratings--so please bear that in mind.)

Tahir Shah knows how to tell a tale, and puts wind enough into this one to ensure the reader stays for the full voyage. Enroute we call in at portals that...
Published 22 months ago by Jim Buck


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timbuctoo: A great read, 24 Jun 2012
This review is from: TIMBUCTOO (Kindle Edition)
If you like a story about the oppressed, the downtrodden or the outsider coming through in spite of harrowing events, grave injustices and enormous odds stacked against them; characters you love to hate; and a good old-fashioned love story, then you may well find wonderful resonances and enjoyment in Tahir Shah's epic novel, Timbuctoo. There are some anti-establishment sentiments in the mix and, given some of the characters' proclivities and activities -- such as the Prince Regent's whimsical excesses and the making of fortunes from trade in unfortunate African slaves -- rightly so, I feel. These themes are timeless.

There's a wise, old saying that you only possess that which would survive a shipwreck. In Robert Adams' case, this was faith, hope, gritty determination and above all the passionate love which fuelled and drove these qualities in him, and to which he clung on for dear life. We're all shipwrecked when we're brought into this world, become enslaved in one way or another and, separated from our "beloved", we yearn to be reunited. There's something about this process that touches on the mystical. In a sense, then, like the old woodcutter in the traditional story of Mushkil Gusha (Remover of All Difficulties), Robert Adams is telling us our own archetypal story and also showing us a way through all this to freedom. The details are very different for each individual, but the underlying pattern is the same.

I found that the author's use of short chapters and often short paragraphs split up the novel into easily manageable "bites", added to the pace of the story and also heightened the drama. With many deft twists and turns in the captivating plot, the book was a real page turner and unputdownable. Knowing little to nothing about the Regency era when I embarked, I also found the rich and vivid description and the adept characterizations educational, informative and also enjoyable and satisfying.

The book is not only about Robert Adams' harrowing narrative, it is of course also about the reception his account received, adding insult to injustice. One thing that struck me was the possible parallel between this and that received by Tahir Shah's own father, the writer, thinker and Sufi teacher, Idries Shah. Both were outsiders and introduced exotic ideas into society, based on first hand experience of the truth. This led both men to become celebrated by many and also dismissed, resented and even undermined by a few self-appointed experts who had their own fixed ideas, largely based on hearsay and what they wanted to believe was the truth. These latter few didn't want to hear the truth but to maintain their vested interests or have their prior beliefs confirmed. This is a point that Idries Shah actually made in the BBC television documentary, "One Pair of Eyes: Dreamwalkers". In it, he says:

"We all think of ourselves as logical people: people who are capable of changing our minds, for instance, if we get superior information, more information which tells us that our former beliefs or prejudices were untrue.

"Doctor Ward Edwards of the University of Michigan Engineering Psychology Laboratory has disproved this in a most alarming manner. He has shown that one third of people are not able to change their minds once they have made them up on the basis of inaccurate information, even if accurate information is subsequently given to them."

A thoroughly enjoyable read -- and well worth re-reading and savouring at a more leisurely pace -- I have no hesitation in giving Tahir Shah's novel, Timbuctoo, five stars; and I can't wait to get my hands on the forthcoming, lavish limited edition hardcover with its bonus features.

Update 15 September 2012: I've since received a copy of the lavish, limited edition hardcover edition, and Tahir Shah's wife and graphic designer, Rachana Shah is to be thoroughly commended for such an exquisite and well thought out book design.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!, 27 Jun 2012
By 
This review is from: TIMBUCTOO (Kindle Edition)
I love this book! Timbuctoo is, for me, a richly rewarding virtual time-
travel voyage into the Regency Period (during the time of the "madness of
King George"). Full of love, greed, loyalty, betrayal, redemption,and so
many other of the finest and the worst of human qualities and
characteristics, Timbuctoo has at its core the story of a great and
true love, sustaining all, through an amazing adventure.

The author's writing style bursts with vitality, and the pages are
loaded with fascinating historical and cultural detail, which in
no way impedes the flow of the 'can't-put-it-down' quality of the story.

The characters in the book are many and diverse, from the sublime
to the ridiculous, and most everything in between, marvelously
filled out and brought to life in the many stories-within-stories
in the tale. From the dregs of human degeneracy to the devotion
of steadfast love, the many players tell their stories here.

The author has managed a writing style where there is a sense
of old-time prose, and yet it flows with great energy and
readability.

From beginning to end I thoroughly enjoyed reading Timbuctoo on Kindle,
and I can't wait to get my copy of the hard cover book!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a corker!, 14 July 2012
By 
R. Twigger - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Timbuctoo (Hardcover)
A certain scepticism about all the hoohah, changing to astonishment at the level of physical production for the tome- a return to old style craft publishing values. Truly a worthy container indeed! As for the content I think the other reviewers have it all nailed. It's a corker! Wonderful read that will transport you effortlessly to another time, another place...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely riveting read - and an ebook bargain, 27 Jun 2012
By 
P. Davies (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: TIMBUCTOO (Kindle Edition)
This is the first time I have managed to read an entire book on an electronic device. That must be because it is such an absolutely riveting read.

A man is telling his story, of endurance almost past belief, of powerlessness, of terrible suffering yet of inner resolve. He is telling it in a London club to an audience who know only comfort and whose only challenges are in social decorum. And they have reason not to believe him for he is an outsider claiming knowledge that contradicts the greedy dream they share.

The narration of this man who was trafficked as a white slave through the hellish sun roasted Sahara is interwoven with a cold winter in London, that inconveniences the rich (but threatens the survival of the disregarded poor. (Oh it makes me regret impatience if the bus is late)

This is a very vivid account that brings alive the period, the people the physical sense of London before motor vehicles and electricity and phones as well as the unpredictable life of those with little or no say over what happens to them.

As I said I read this in digital format - and it is a bargain - but I am looking forward to the release of the real book edition, which sounds like it is one for book lovers - and might well make book lovers of those who aren't.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre Happenings in Regency London, 28 Jun 2012
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This review is from: TIMBUCTOO (Kindle Edition)
There are people even today who are unsure about whether Timbuctu exists or whether the word is just a metaphor for somewhere really remote. In early nineteenth century England Timbuctoo signified a city of great wealth where anything that could be fashioned from gold was. By the time a destitute Robert Adams was found close to death near Covent garden, the Royal Committee for Africa was planning a major expedition to find and plunder the fabled city. The revelation that Adams had been to Timbuctoo was not received with unalloyed joy but, since a naval blocade prevented his return to his native America, it was decided that he recite his story in the presence of Simon Cochran, Secretary to the Committee.

The story Robert Adams tells, of his shipwreck and involuntary, nightmarish journey through the Sahara weaves like a timeless thread through the rest of the narrative. He is a Christian Odysseus at the mercy of the Dark Continent rather than the Wine-dark Sea, where endurance of privation, brutality, loneliness, terror and temptation is only possible because he manages to keep alive the hope of reaching home and being reunited with his Penelope, his dearly beloved wife, Christina.

As Adams waits for the war between England and America to end and for a ship to take him home, we are drawn deeper and deeper into the life of Regency London, meeting the rich and powerful with no conception of work, the numerous servants upon whom they rely but who are considered unworthy of notice, the scientific and literary elite represented by Sir Joseph Banks, George Byron and Jane Austen, and others who earn their living independently in unorthodox ways. We even find ourselves inside the doors of some of the grim institutions of the day, Bedlam, the Marshalsea and prison ships anchored on the Thames.

'Timbuctoo' has all the ingredients of a great story: unpredictable events, vivid description, unforgettable characters, humour, mystery. Like Homer's 'Odyssey' it is rich in symbolism, but its unexpected twists and turns defeat the attempts of a rational mind to analyse it. This is a book to be enjoyed while its wisdom is allowed to surface in its own good time. Suspend disbelief as characters from history lose their inhibitions and behave with increasing bizarreness until an immensely satisfying, but outrageous climax is reached. We have been brought to another world where buffoons rule and demons scheme, but where kindly spirits also exist. At least one other world lies beyond, but to reach it, as Robert Adams, who has within him the essence of Christianity, knows from experience there are no alternatives to love and endurance.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TIMBUCTOO: surrealistic and yet utterly real!, 25 Jun 2012
This review is from: TIMBUCTOO (Kindle Edition)
This book is very different from Shah's other works in the sense that it is a novel, based on historical fact. Yet, like his other books, reality is described in a way that is surreal.
At times we say how reality is more extreme than our wildest imagination can portray and that is exactly the case here.
Shah's book is an adventure that is full of facts, with layered stories and minute descriptions that are wonderful, full of life and love for truth.
Who would have ever thought that there were white slaves in the early 19th century in this part of the world? Who really understood the effects of the Regency period, i.e. the ruler being a Mad King and the Prince Regent portrayed with an eye for such detail?
There is an underlying love story which demonstrates not only a romantic relationship, but which is also a story on a steadfast love of truth.
This quest for truth stands out amidst the other truths. There are descriptions of the cruelty of which human beings are capable, as long as they believe in their own petty truth. These are, of course, as much relevant in today's world and give a new, historical perspective, enabling us to look at ourselves slightly differently in the modern world.
Shah has obviously done a lot of research into the reality of those days of the Regency period. This enhances the quality of the portrayal of that world, making it easier to enter and take part in.
This is a must-read, original book that will be hard to put down (in the literal and figurative sense of the word). Wonderful!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic good read, 28 July 2012
By 
I. Tyrrell (Hailsham, East Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Timbuctoo (Hardcover)
I've just spent a couple of days deeply immersed in Timbuctoo, a wonderfully exotic book, beautifully written, designed and produced. The fast pace made it difficult to put down, which is what a good story should do, and the incidental but obviously lovingly researched detail had me wanting to know more about those far off days. I thought that the descriptions of gullible, greedy and ruthless people were masterly. It would make a great adventure film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars London, desert sand and intrigue, 30 Jun 2012
This review is from: TIMBUCTOO (Kindle Edition)
It is the Regency, King George III, too mad to reign is confined to Windsor Castle whilst his effete and profligate son George, Prince of Wales, acts as Regent, supposedly reigning in his place. It is a period we have all heard of, but possibly ignored. Against this backdrop, Robert Adams an uneducated but intensely civilised American, emerges from three years in the Sahara desert to find himself in the centre of a maelstrom of financial and political intrigue.
The story takes us from the tinkle of fine china to the harsh reality of dark cobbled alleys where life is cheap, a sharp knife in the jugular is the answer to anyone who has embarrassing truths to reveal. We learn about the science of the day, the menus served in Brighton Pavilion, 'ow a 'ang a man quick and clean. A gripping tale, easy to read, there is no danger of loosing interest in this one.
I was sad to reach the end and to have to leave the world that I had grown to like, where the characters have a Dickensian intensity and their various tales unfold around Robert Adams as he struggles to survive the narration of his time in Africa. Filled with numerous small details that make you taste and feel life in Regency England along with life as a slave in the Sahara Desert, the book is a great read and stimulates interest in an unappreciated period of history. A surprising achievement for a book read entirely on a mobile phone!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timbuctoo, 25 Jun 2012
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This review is from: TIMBUCTOO (Kindle Edition)
Timbuctoo
It must be said straight off that Tahir Shah's new, and self published, book Timbuctoo is a triumph of design.Congratulations Rachana. With it's gold title lettering,sumptious marbled end papers,silk bookmark and large fold out maps, it's in the style of a 19 Century travel book,indeed, it's very like the original Narrative of Robert Adams on which it is based.
Whilst the usual Shah energy, the ability to tell a tale, the gallery of fascinating and sometimes grotesque characters are all here this is a very different book from his previous ones. Here he has put Robert Adams, the first westerner to see Timbuctoo and live to tell the tale firmly in the forefront. Adams was found in 1815, half-starved and penniless on the streets of London.His descriptions of Timbuctoo, where he had been taken as a slave following a shipwreck, were nothing like the fantastic beliefs held in London and European society of the time. They believed Timbuctoo to be made entirely of gold and were in a desperate race between nations to reach there and claim it for their country.
The ensuing attempts to supress and discredit Adams are what holds Shah's tale together.Adams was American and thus less than popular at that time in England.According to some reports his mother was a `mulatto' and he was illiterate .Therefore what hope could he have of putting forward his story against the rich and powerful ,not to mention greedy and corrupt,powers of the day.As Shah says in the foreward,this is a tale looking at the enthusiasms and pre-occupations of the Regency era and is only very loosely based on Adams true story.He has `massaged facts and fictions into place,re-conjuring history'.
It is set in 1815, a few years after England lost America, fewer after the first Abolition of Slavery Act was passed but Wellington had just defeated Bonaparte at Waterloo and an extravagant,self indulgent and self absorbed Prince Regent was on the throne. The Regent was passionate in his pursuit of exotica as well as of food,wine,portraits of himself and women.Other great characters and themes are present.Byron, Beau Brummell, Lady Caroline Lamb, Joseph Banks, intriques against the throne,hangmen, showmen, slavery, excess, poverty, corruption, violence and love all make their appearance. There's no great examination of these themes, even of Adams' invented great love back in Hudson but it becomes clearer that there are parallels between this glittering age and the view of Africans as `barbarous'. In England at the time slavery was still being hotly defended by many and fortunes were still to be made from it.There were public viewings at Bedlam, public hangings, public dissection of corpses, all offered as entertainment.
What Shah has done is to capture the rambunctious Regency spirit.It was a time of huge extravagance , when appearance,absurdity,fiction and reality were all forged together in the heat of Regency profligacy and Shah has written and invented a tale to match. There's also a hidden treasure within the book, see if you can solve it.If you do you can dig up a fabulous gilded African head, there's one hidden on each continent.
If this book leads anyone to look at Adams' story,slavery, the Regency period or anything else that gallops across these pages,then good for you.There's a wealth of extra stuff on the Timbuctoo website. Otherwise, sit back, hang on and enjoy the ride.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping yarn, 15 July 2012
This review is from: Timbuctoo (Hardcover)
Tahir Shah's abundant gift for travel writing has made a deft transition into fiction, with Timbuctoo a gripping yarn. The reader is transported to the streets and salons of Regency London, with Shah's talent in setting a rich historical context enriching a strong and absorbing plot. Characters are drawn with bold strokes, with the notable figures of the time being animated in rich colours through the interplay of fiction and fact as the tale unfolds.

There is a certain curiosity in being so transported into this past world through the virtual pages of an ebook, but the splendour and vision of the book itself - which is an irresistible purchase after the digital tasting - is absolutely of it's time. Presented with an attention to detail and a breadth of reference which are breathtaking and delightful, the book is a fitting tribute to the epic tale it tells and adds a wealth of pleasure to an already splendid read.
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Timbuctoo
Timbuctoo by Tahir Shah (Hardcover - 5 July 2012)
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