In Xanadu – A Quest Book Review

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Book Synopsis – In Xanadu

In Xanadu by William Dalrymple is a personal travel memoir of his journey along Marco Polo’s footsteps from Jerusalem to Xanadu, the summer palace of Kubla Khan. As an avid traveler, William spends his summer break from Cambridge to take an overland journey from Jerusalem to Aleppo, to Eastern Turkey, across Iran and Pakistan, and finally through China until his final destination – Xanadu. Along the way he shares his encounters with locals and other travelers, funny stories, bureaucratic hurdles,  and historic insights on the places he visits. 

His detailed description of the towns, the landscape and architecture on his way let you piggy-pack along, as if he was painting the world he sees for you and allows you to join him on this journey. 

William Dalrymple is an acclaimed author of history and travel books, and In Xanadu includes quite a bit of historic detail of the places he visits. Yet he does it in a refreshing and compelling way that draws you in, even if you are not a history buff. He tells you a story about the times past, full of anecdotes and interesting details. Not dates and time and other boring details, but the stories that you will actually remember a few years down the line. 

All throughout the book, Dalrymple introduces you to the people he meets and their stories. Funny dialogues, paired with situational humor and cultural or language misconceptions make it a fun read. He shares these people’s story, sometimes just a glimpse, sometimes he goes deeper. Some of those characters will float away after you read on, others will stick with you and you’ll remember them like an old friend, as if you had met them yourself. 

What I loved about the book

I love how this book swept me away to these foreign lands. Dalrymple’s way of describing these exotic lands will teleport you to the far-flung places along his journey. His description is so vivid and detailed that you can SEE the towns he visits and the buildings he admires. In Xanadu pulls you in and you become part of it. After reading the book, it almost felt like I had been on this journey. As if I had truly seen those magical places and shared those experiences people on the way. 

The stories and encounters with the people along his way range from adventurous to funny to downright scary, but he never fails to see the good in people. Dalrymple has the heart of a true traveler, always believing in the good in people and ready for an adventure. He draws people out through his conversations and you get to see a glimpse of their every day lives, their culture and traditions. While I am not a history buff, I truly enjoyed his interludes about the local history and the way he shared the story of a place. 

In Xanadu - William Dalrymple - Book ReviewThe dialogues he shares are funny, almost slapstick in character and will make you laugh out loud as you read the book. I actually had to read several passages to my husband, because my laughter intrigued him about what I was reading 🙂 

In Xanadu is a beautiful book about an amazing journey and I truly enjoyed reading it and I can’t wait to read some more of Dalrymple’s books. Just on a side note, I did not receive a free copy of the book or any form of incentive to write this review. However, The links in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you decide to purchase this book 🙂