The Seige of Isfahan – Jean-Christophe Rufin

I would put this novel into the “I’d’ve been happy reading it as a library book; but I’d have felt disappointed if I’d paid anything like the RRP for it”. So it was a good job I’d bought it at the cheap and cheerful charity second hand bookshop in Hereford.

It wasn’t bad, just a little light in places – but that’s the risk of reading historical novels featuring dashing heroes amidst a cast of characters from a range of cultures, enjoying epic adventures and political intruige in lands afar…. I *always* end up comparing them with Dorothy Dunnett‘s, and by and large they come up short.

And there were always going to be some cultural/literary differences arising from the fact that I was reading a translation of a book originally penned in french. Occasionally this was irritatingly obvious, albeit at the gnat rather than shark end of the scale, in the over-elaborate use of synonyms. The example that sticks in the mind is the various words for elephant that appear in the space of a few paragraphs on pages 315 and 316: pachyderm, mastodon, animal – I can just hear the french stylistic flourishes…..

But enough gripes, because The Seige of Isfahan is definitely worth a read if you like historical novels. In it, Jean-Christophe Rufin returns to the characters twenty years after he created in The Abyssinian and finds them scattered across the countries and empires of Persia, Europe and Central Asia. From the central base of Isfahan under the last of the Persian Kings, the plot twists and turns its way across time and place reuniting the orginal cast back once more, but this time in an Isfahan destroyed by seige and ruled by the Afghans of Kandahar.

Buy it: Amazon link