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A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne


A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne
UK Publication Date: 23rd July 2020
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Random House UK(via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

The story of the history of the world through multiple viewpoints across the globe and across time.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Some stories are universal. They play out across human history. And time is the river which will flow through them.

It starts with a family, a family which will mutate. For now, it is a father, mother and two sons. One with his father’s violence in his blood. One who lives his mother’s artistry. One leaves. One stays. They will be joined by others whose deeds will change their fate. It is a beginning.

Their stories will intertwine and evolve over the course of two thousand years – they will meet again and again at different times and in different places. From distant Palestine at the dawn of the first millennium to a life amongst the stars in the third. While the world will change around them, their destinies will remain the same. It must play out as foretold. It is written.

A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom is the extraordinary new novel from acclaimed writer John Boyne. Ambitious, far-reaching and mythic, it introduces a group of characters whose lives we will come to know and will follow through time and space until they reach their natural conclusion.

My Thoughts: I have loved the other Boyne novels that I have read and while this is completely different it is a great story. The whole set up has strong Cloud Atlas vibes and I loved the idea of the human story being universal across time, across the globe and across humanity.

The story starts at the beginning of the modern calendar AD 1 and ends 60 years into our future. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a younger son in a different time and different part of the world. The story moves in a chronological order and what happens in one chapter (lifetime) carries over and continues in the next. Each narrator has the same motivations, faces the same tragedy and has the same artistic leanings. The beauty of the story is that each chapter while maintaining ties to the previous one is true to the time and place it is set. The kind of art the narrator engages in changes over time from stone carving all the way to song writing. The events that befall the narrator change according to time and place but all have the same result and outcome.

Boyne is a gifted storyteller and while there were some chapters where I wanted to know more about the characters I came to accept that while that lifetime was over I could still follow the story in the next chapter.

I loved the way history was explored how the narrators often associate with famous people of the day we have cameo appearances from King Herod, Michelangelo and William Shakespeare to name but a few and many more besides and it was these touch points that really added to the story.

I also liked the musings about the role of women throughout history and how they often had no say over their lives. There was a brief exploration of slavery from both sides and even a political commentary about colonialism and the current president. Boyne literally covered everything.

This is an extremely clever book and one I think would benefit from a second (or more) reading to discover hidden hints and clues.

Who would like this? If you liked Cloud Atlas this is definitely for you. If you like a book that challenges you and gives you a unique view of the world pick this up you won’t regret it.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. pbtanita #

    Great review! I’m dying to read this . . .


    July 26, 2020
  2. This sounds good. And I was wondering – are you going to do the Booker predictions and shadow panel this year? Just one day left…


    July 26, 2020
    • Book Worm #

      Watch out for our post tomorrow 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      July 26, 2020
  3. Great review! I’ve always been thinking about adding Boyne’s work to my TBR list and you’ve made an interesting case for him. I liked Cloud Atlas.


    August 13, 2020
  4. I haven’t read this, but I’m curious if you saw this in the news recently?

    It’s funny but I was also bothered by the author’s carelessness towards historical research.


    August 15, 2020

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