Book Review: Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls by Marco Polo

I recently bought a few of the Penguin Little Black Classics, short paperback novels which are only 80p a pop. The first one I got into was this one, by Italian explorer Marco Polo, an extract from his Travels book.

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It being a product of the 13th century I braced myself for some horribly outdated and patronising views of India and Sri Lanka and their inhabitants, but Polo surprised me in this aspect. While he expresses surprise and confusion over the local customs it is always with fascination and done respectfully. In times Polo’s admiration is obvious and I found this quite refreshing and enlightened.

Polo’s style is extremely informal, at times it feels more like a letter to a friend than a proper memoir and he frequently uses expressions like “let me tell you…” Which makes it engaging and laid back.

I really enjoyed this book which was a very quick read and I may check out the full work at some point in the near future. Of course, the only problem is that it got my feet itching. Asia has changed since Polo’s travels in the area, but it still holds plenty of attraction to us Europeans.

Verdict: The informal tone and Polo’s interested, enthusiastic writing is easy to read and fascinating. He shows insight and respect into local customs, and his focus on the people rather than the landscapes is a nice touch. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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