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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2009
Books just don't get much better than this. I bought it totally on a whim from an English language shelf while on honeymoon on a biking trip through Spain. I had fallen in love with it before the end of the first page.

What suffuses this book is joy. There joy in the language: Chabon wields a phrase with all the panache of a swashbuckler swinging from a chandelier. It melds the delight in storytelling from The Princess Bride with utterly compelling characters, evocative places and a certain astringent nostalgia for a vanished people.

I noticed on reviewer complaining about the language. This is not a children's book. It's a book for people who delight in the wholly implausible. Perhaps the kind of people who have something of the elephant pens about them.

Beg, borrow or buy this book. If you've got even a spark of imagination in you, this book will inflame it.
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on 7 February 2011
I have read several Michael Chabon books in the past, which were mostly set in the USA or somewhere almost like it, and in the almost present day.

So it was quite a surprise to pick up Gentlemen of the Road and discover it was set in the 10th century, in the Jewish kingdom of Khazaria between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. The eponymous Gentlemen are two marvellously drawn and somewhat eccentric adventurers, who find themselves drawn into events, where they save the day by a mixture of cunning, courage and just plain recklessness.

It's a fantastic adventure story, with some deliciously rich prose, some laugh out loud moments and some surprising twists. I was also inspired to find out more about the historical background to the novel, which is equally fascinating, in its own way. Very enjoyable.
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Language should enhance a story, not distract from it. Michael Chabon has such a fine command of English that he could write a love story that only five people in the world could understand was a love story. But what purpose would that serve? It would merely indicate pride at work.

To me, an adventure story needs to focus on the action and move rapidly. I want to find myself hanging over a cliff without first realizing that I'm barreling towards it. Otherwise, I don't feel like I'm in the adventure . . . but merely reading words about someone's idea of an adventure.

As a result, I wasn't pleased with the results of Michael Chabon's imaginative series of 15 short stories. I was spending more time studying the language than I was thinking about the story. It's like having a cake that's almost all icing. Why? For some reason, he chooses to use extremely long sentences ("With his skin that was lustrous as the tarnish on a copper kettle, and his eyes womanly as a camel's, and his shining pate with its ruff of wool whose silver hue implied a seniority attained only by the most hardened men, and above all with the air of stillness that trumpeted his murderous nature to all but the greenest travelers on this minor spur of the Silk Road, the African appeared neither to invite nor to promise to tolerate questions.") and many infrequently used words (the first chapter includes "shatranj," "bambakion," "buskins," "ostler," "bodkin," "runes," "Mehr," "Varangian," "caravansary," "japery," "Parthian," and "mendacious." Now I knew all but one of those words and could figure the other one out from context, but I doubt if most people would agree that those words added to the meaning of the story.

Building a tale from 15 short stories also makes the book choppy. I would have preferred a novella or a novel. Few have written this way since the time of Dickens when books were sold by installment. There's a reason for that: It doesn't work as well.

But the historical references were interesting, ones that I'm glad I learned from reading the book.

It's a short book and well illustrated. Without the illustrations, I would have liked the book a lot less well. The illustrations, however, pointed out some of the weaknesses of the writing: You need the illustrations to complete the story telling for the words are inadequate by themselves.

Beyond that, was I glad I read the book? Not very much. The overall story is one that didn't capture my interest very much. After Chapter One, the book was all downhill for me.

This work feels like a writing exercise rather than a serious literary work designed to please a large audience.

If you like fine writing and don't care much about how well the story works, by all means read this book.

But if you are looking for the best and most accessible of what Michael Chabon can deliver, skip Gentlemen of the Road.
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on 29 July 2012
Fine - the book arrivedon time so i could give as a present - Fine - the book arrivedon time so i could give as a present-Fine - the book arrivedon time so i could give as a present
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on 31 May 2016
This is a beautiful book, beautifully presented, beautifully written. Very happy with it - and so is my husband - who it was bought for. Lovely! x
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on 28 July 2013
I read it just to enjoy Chabon's artfully crafted wording. I wasn't mad about the plot but the language more than made up for it.
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on 16 January 2015
Really good read, brilliant storytelling. Only problem was it ended too soon, I wanted it to go on longer!
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on 23 May 2010
Gentlemen Of The Road is about the adventures of two travellers as they make their way in lands around the Caspian Sea; the history of these lands as told during the two travellers' adventures may or may not be true, but there is certainly enough fact mixed in with the fiction to keep you guessing. The travellers themselves are interesting characters, as are the people they meet. Everything fits well in the tapestry the author weaves -even the elephants!

While I enjoyed the book, the richness of the language at times obscured the rhythm of the story. This is a shame, because the story is good, the characters well described, and the world in which they move is richly painted. If you don't mind not being sure what quite a few words mean, all that should be more than enough to ensure you thoroughly enjoy Gentlemen Of The Road.

Anthony Addis The Tale of the Birds
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on 8 December 2014
Fine
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on 10 April 2008
Not a bad book, but nothing special. Good for the younger reader. Nothing to compare with Klavier and Clay.
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