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Ex-Libris Paperback – May 28, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is very well written and features an unassuming bookseller as the protagonist who owns a shop and lives on London Bridge in the 17th Century. His cloistered world is shattered one day, and from that moment until the book ends, readers follow him along on a complicated mission to solve a mystery. To make matters more complex, there is a second background story taking place many years in the past that helps with the exposition of what our bookseller is dealing with. The players are legion and a very good memory is required to follow the tale. A pad of paper and a pen helps to track the important pieces. As many of these pieces are rare editions of old books and book fragments, it could make anyone a bit dizzy while keeping all in order. As I said, for me it was great fun, but I can see why others would be frustrated if they were expecting a more straightforward tale.
The book jacket suggests a few Authors whose work is comparable to that of Mr. King's. One I agree with and one I do not, but I do feel a third is even more appropriate. Mr. Charles Palliser writes very intricate tales in historic periods that are a maze to follow as well as a book to read. I truly think most will find this a wonderful book and reading time very well spent.
This is a novel that tells two parallel stories: First, of a London bookseller in 1660, Isaac Inchbold, who is charged with tracking down a rare manuscript. Second, of Emilia, a lady-in-waiting to the young Queen of Bohemia in 1620, who flees the destruction of Prague with the treasure-trove of books from Prague Castle.
Of the two, the secondary story of Emilia is the more interesting of the two. Hearing a bit of Prague in its glory days took me back to a recent visit I made to the city and brought it to life for me again. Also, Emilia comes off as a sometimes bewildered but ultimately intelligent and together young woman. On the other hand, I found Inchbold to be rather uninteresting. He seems to be intelligent but allows himself to be easily manipulated and rather slow on the uptake. I found myself rather irritated with this character who is supposed to be our guide through this story and who allows himself to almost completely controlled by rather obvious means. Fortunately, this novel is also peopled by quite a few interesting minor characters such as Inchbold's apprentice, Monk; Biddulph, the old Navy historian; and Appleyard, the blind clerk in the deeds' crypt.
Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure the culmination of the novel is really worth the effort it takes to get there. There are some interesting revelations concerning the book that is the object of everyone's interest but the end in rather anticlimactic. Still, this novel is an easy read and there's some interesting things here. All in all, it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Without giving anything away, or not much anyway, Ex-Libris is a story set in the disastrous years of and after English Reformation. There are two stories entwined together in the story, they run parallel to eachother but are decades apart. Both stories center in the search for a missing text, one of greater value than the reader can imagine at first.
I enjoyed the introspective pace of the narrator Isaac Inchbold. His accounts of life on London Bridge were enlightening, and convincingly authentic, the sites and smells and cricks and creeks are all lushly delivered. Fans of historical fiction will lap these details up.
I wonder, however, if Ross King prefers narration to dialogue, for I felt the story was lacking in the latter, and when it did occur, it sounded versed in the same tongue as narration, every character exactly as eloquent as the next. I probably wouldn't mention such an incongruity, or even write a review for this book at all if it hadn't been for the way the book ends.
Ex-Libris is recommended in the same breath, with almost all reviewers, with the works of Umberto Eco, Arturo Perez-Reverte, and Iain Pears, which is good company no doubt. But I felt some of the comparisons are too obvious. Our hero (or, anti-hero, in Mr. Inchbold's defense he is clumsy and club-footed) spends a waning chapter on deciphering a cryptic jumble of letters he finds, and, while he does solve it's peculiar riddle, it hardly seems important.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This story of an English bookseller whose predictable life is turned upside down by a mysterious woman who hires him to investigate a book sold many years ago is complicated and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Sara Scott
I'm only reviewing the first 120 pages of my 2001 Walker and Company edition because the next 34 pages are MISSING! Also pages 153-184 are repeated. Read morePublished 11 months ago by M. Lynch
I usually like historical mysteries, but it took me four months to read this one. The author Ross King vividly recreates London just after the English Civil War as the protagonist,... Read morePublished 16 months ago by J.L. Greger
I bought this book after reading another by the same author - The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism. Read morePublished on February 28, 2013 by John Durkee
I had high hopes for this book after reading B.'s Dome, which is a fascinating read. What I discovered was that it is entirely possible for the same author to write both fabulous... Read morePublished on September 10, 2011 by Clare
I enjoyed Ex Libris very much. The author has done a prodigious amount of research for the book and it is quite a history lesson. Read morePublished on August 29, 2011 by Jeffrey Huntington
The story is written in the first person -- narrated by a 17th century London bookseller. Having lived a pleasant but uneventful life thus far, and comfortable in his dim and... Read morePublished on May 24, 2011 by Mark Pfennigstag
What can I say I am a sucker for books about books? As with many of them it could be said to be about books being destroyed by people or groups that disagreed with them. Read morePublished on March 12, 2011 by MonsterWrangler
Once in a great while, you find a book that brings back some childhood memory. This book brings back Lima beans; it's there staring at you all un-appetizingly but you know you've... Read morePublished on February 13, 2010 by Travis Pelt