When a book opens with a single cinematic sweep, moving from Sir Richard Burton death through the reluctant giving of last rites, to a sharp focus on a burning photograph of the 22-year-old Richard Burton that pulls you into his 1840's
…individual lives are mysterious, particularly those of people one had never met. This Novel is intended as personal approach to a mystery rather than as an attempt at definitive revelation.
This approach shapes the unusual structure of the novel. It is divided into three sections: first is
In each section,
The language is poetic with scene after scene evoked with powerful physical detail and a constant parade of realistic characters from a long faded 19th Century that engage us in both Burton’s life as well as the other narrators. Together each section reveal a complex ambiguous man who loved language, disguises, adventure, learned to love sex, and wanted to understand cultures for the wider benefit of the Empire without perhaps realising the irony that Empires once they see the worth of other cultures the right to rule begins to crumble.
I strongly recommend the book for a highly enjoyable read and an introduction to a man well worth reading and in many ways a man ahead of his time.