Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a wonderful novel. This is everything a historical novel should be--rich in period detail, meticulously researched, and filled with believable characters that bring the era alive.
Based on the true story of one of the great Muslim travelers, we get to see the Songhai Empire, the capture of Egypt by the Ottomans, and the high culture and low morals of Renaissance Rome.
The real Leo Africanus is an enigmatic figure and there are large gaps in what we know of his life. Maalouf fills these with all sorts of adventures and meetings with famous people and weaves fiction and history seamlessly together.
Maalouf explains everything well and the reader is never lost despite the flurry of names and places. At times I could have used some more detail and felt that even at 360 densely set pages that it was a bit rushed. I would have been happy for it to have been twice as long!
If you like historical novels and have an interest in the Muslim world or Renaissance history, be sure to pick up this modern classic.
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