Balthasar's Odyssey by Amin Maalouf

Balthasar's Odyssey

Amin Maalouf

An epic adventure in search of a coveted book in the run up to the apocalyptic 'Year of the Beast' in 1666, stretching from Constantinople to London. It's full of detail, believable characters and touching love scenes, and I learnt a lot about the roots of today's tensions between Islamic and Western cultures. A clear and supple translation, it's not a difficult read but give yourself time to enjoy all its facets.


Mine's a very strange wooing! I didn't hold her hand until our second meeting, and even then I blushed for it in the dark. At this, our third encounter, I put my arm round her shoulder. And again I blushed for it.

She raised her head, undid her hair, and spread the black tresses over my bare arm. Then she went to sleep without saying a word.

  • My Name is Red by Orham Pamuk
  • Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco

Books with similar mood

South of Centre

Andrea Carter

The Tiger's Wife

Tea Obreht

Sharks in the Time of Saviours

Kawai Strong Washburn

Ancestor Stones

Aminatta Forna

The Man With the Compound Eyes

Wu Ming-Yi

A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven

Karl O Knausgaard

Measuring Time

Helon Habila

The Swan Thieves

Elizabeth Kostova

This Body

Tessa McWatt

Middle Age: A Romance

Joyce Carol Oates


Thomas Wharton


Paul Auster


Anita Nair


W G Sebald

The Dream of Scipio

Iain Pears

In America

Susan Sontag

A Book of Strange New Things

Michel Faber

The Buried Giant

Kazuo Ishiguro

I Am Forbidden

Anouk Markovits


Rebbecca Ray

The Alchemy of Desire

Tarun Tejpal

Journey in Blue

Stig Dalager

The Visible World

Mark Slouka

The Dollmaker

Nina Allan

The Age of Magic

Ben Okri

The Calligrapher's Secret

Rafik Schami

The Invention of Everything Else

Samantha Hunt

Joseph's Box

Suhayl Saadi

The Story of You

Julie Myerson


Antoni Libera


Max Porter


Tom McCarthy

The Seducer

Jan Kjaerstad

Tales of Protection

Erik Fosnes Hansen


Ian McEwan


Susanna Clarke

In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman

As Though She Were Sleeping

Elias Khoury

The Coward's Tale

Vanessa Gebbie

The Coral Thief

Rebecca Stott

Of Bees and Mist

Erick Setiawan

The Good Mayor

Andrew Nicoll

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

David Wroblewski

The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Andrew Sean Greer

The Power Book

Jeanette Winterson

The Opposite House

Helen Oyeyemi

Tirzah and the Prince of Crows

Deborah Kay Davies

The Bear and the Nightingale

Katherine Arden

Thimio's House

John Kefala Kerr