Felipe Fernández-Armesto

From the Black Sea to Xinjiang

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

By Peter Frankopan

Bloomsbury 614pp £25 order from our bookshop

In everything except husbands, and especially in literature, my wife’s tastes are exacting. I have devoted years to the effort of crafting an opening sentence good enough to get her to read on.

‘May I,’ I asked experimentally, ‘read you the opening of Peter Frankopan’s new book, to see what you think of it?’ My audience disposed herself attentively. ‘From the beginning of time,’ I started (at this point my wife fled from the vacuous cliché, while I read on, calling after her in crescendo), ‘the centre of Asia was where empires were made.’

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