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Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City

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For centuries the city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains was a meeting point of East and West. Then it vanished. In 1833 it was discovered in Afghanistan by the unlikeliest person imaginable: Charles Masson, deserter, traveller, pilgrim, doctor, archaeologist, spy, and eventually one of the most respected scholars in Asia, and the greatest of nineteenth-century traveller For centuries the city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains was a meeting point of East and West. Then it vanished. In 1833 it was discovered in Afghanistan by the unlikeliest person imaginable: Charles Masson, deserter, traveller, pilgrim, doctor, archaeologist, spy, and eventually one of the most respected scholars in Asia, and the greatest of nineteenth-century travellers. On the way into one of history's most extraordinary stories, he would take tea with kings, travel with holy men and become the master of a hundred disguises; he would see things no westerner had glimpsed before and few have glimpsed since. He would spy for the East India Company and be suspected of spying for Russia at the same time, for this was the era of the Great Game, when imperial powers confronted each other in these staggeringly beautiful lands. Masson discovered tens of thousands of pieces of Afghan history, including the 2,000 year old Bimaran golden casket, which has upon it the earliest known face of the Buddha. He would be offered his own kingdom; he would change the world, and the world would destroy him. This is a wild journey through nineteenth-century India and Afghanistan, with impeccably researched storytelling that shows us a world of espionage and dreamers, ne'er-do-wells and opportunists, extreme violence both personal and military, and boundless hope. At the edge of empire, amid the deserts and the mountains, it is the story of an obsession passed down the centuries.


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For centuries the city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains was a meeting point of East and West. Then it vanished. In 1833 it was discovered in Afghanistan by the unlikeliest person imaginable: Charles Masson, deserter, traveller, pilgrim, doctor, archaeologist, spy, and eventually one of the most respected scholars in Asia, and the greatest of nineteenth-century traveller For centuries the city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains was a meeting point of East and West. Then it vanished. In 1833 it was discovered in Afghanistan by the unlikeliest person imaginable: Charles Masson, deserter, traveller, pilgrim, doctor, archaeologist, spy, and eventually one of the most respected scholars in Asia, and the greatest of nineteenth-century travellers. On the way into one of history's most extraordinary stories, he would take tea with kings, travel with holy men and become the master of a hundred disguises; he would see things no westerner had glimpsed before and few have glimpsed since. He would spy for the East India Company and be suspected of spying for Russia at the same time, for this was the era of the Great Game, when imperial powers confronted each other in these staggeringly beautiful lands. Masson discovered tens of thousands of pieces of Afghan history, including the 2,000 year old Bimaran golden casket, which has upon it the earliest known face of the Buddha. He would be offered his own kingdom; he would change the world, and the world would destroy him. This is a wild journey through nineteenth-century India and Afghanistan, with impeccably researched storytelling that shows us a world of espionage and dreamers, ne'er-do-wells and opportunists, extreme violence both personal and military, and boundless hope. At the edge of empire, amid the deserts and the mountains, it is the story of an obsession passed down the centuries.

30 review for Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a really amazing tale, which almost reads like something by Rudyard Kipling. It begins like a novel – it is early morning in Agra, 1827, when a Private goes AWOL from the British East India Company’s regiment of the Bengal Artillery. He had no plan, no money, not even a change of clothes. However, having enlisted in the army to escape his poverty-stricken life in London, only to find that he was just as poor in India, he decided to reinvent himself. How much of this initial story is trut This is a really amazing tale, which almost reads like something by Rudyard Kipling. It begins like a novel – it is early morning in Agra, 1827, when a Private goes AWOL from the British East India Company’s regiment of the Bengal Artillery. He had no plan, no money, not even a change of clothes. However, having enlisted in the army to escape his poverty-stricken life in London, only to find that he was just as poor in India, he decided to reinvent himself. How much of this initial story is truth and how much invention, is unclear. However, the possibly named Private James Lewis, becomes Charles Masson and, along the way, transforms himself from a lowly soldier to an eminent archaeologist. When he left the army, he was destitute and a deserter, who could have been killed, had he been found. Instead, he embarks on a quest to discover the city of Alexandria. Or, rather, one of the cities of Alexandria, as Alexander the Great was known to have built a dozen, or more, cities, with the same name throughout his Empire. This book takes you through India, Afghanistan and even to Egypt. We see Masson become involved with attempting to help exiled kings reclaim their thrones, reading his own obituary, suffer imprisonment and have endless adventures. The author helps tie in Masson’s story with the history, and politics, of the time as well, so, overall, this is a very interesting read. I did feel, at first, like I was reading a novel and the beginning of this book was very gripping, but really the pace does not drop. A very interesting read about reinvention and obsession. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    The tale of 'Charles Masson'- deserter, traveller, spy, trickster- is one of those stories so outlandish and unlikely that it's hard to believe. Yet, for all that this book is written with the flair of a good novel, Edmund Richardson has clearly researched his man well. James Lewis turned Charles Masson is the focus, with the search for Alexandria forming part of his story, so it wasn't quite the book I was expecting. Even so, the wealth of original material kept me reading, each piece adding to The tale of 'Charles Masson'- deserter, traveller, spy, trickster- is one of those stories so outlandish and unlikely that it's hard to believe. Yet, for all that this book is written with the flair of a good novel, Edmund Richardson has clearly researched his man well. James Lewis turned Charles Masson is the focus, with the search for Alexandria forming part of his story, so it wasn't quite the book I was expecting. Even so, the wealth of original material kept me reading, each piece adding to a genuinely fascinating picture of life in 19th C Afghanistan. ARC via Netgalley

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lora Milton

    Like a lot of history books, it starts out a little slow with a lot of fact dumping to put the reader into the picture of what it's all about. At first I thought my expectation of a storytelling narrative might have been too high, but I'm interested in this area of history so I took the first chapter in small bites. By halfway through that chapter, things started moving much faster and an interesting adventure was underway. Much of it follows the movements of James Lewis, who deserted from the Ea Like a lot of history books, it starts out a little slow with a lot of fact dumping to put the reader into the picture of what it's all about. At first I thought my expectation of a storytelling narrative might have been too high, but I'm interested in this area of history so I took the first chapter in small bites. By halfway through that chapter, things started moving much faster and an interesting adventure was underway. Much of it follows the movements of James Lewis, who deserted from the East India Company and changed his name to Charles Masson. The book admits that many of the stories about Masson are unverifiable and probably exaggerated, but he had a talent for misrepresenting himself and discovered that the more fantastic his claims, the more people tended to believe them. This saved his life and even got him good treatment in regions where an Englishman would normally fare badly, especially in his time. His adventures brought him to Pakistan and Afghanistan following the trail of Alexander the Great and the many 'cities' he founded and called Alexandria. The familiar one in Egypt turns out to be one of many, though some of these 'cities' don't amount to much. His adventures and clashes with the East India Company make for interesting adventure reading, though at times it goes back to a slower narrative. The pure audacity of Masson and his accomplishments is worth the effort.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lucy-Bookworm

    “This is the story of how James Lewis became Charles Masson. It’s a pretty good story. There’s only one problem: like many other stories about Charles Masson, it may not entirely be true.” This quote from the book really sums it up! This is an astonishing story that starts in 1827 in India when Private James Lewis, a young soldier, walks out of his barracks towards a new life. He has no plan, no money and no idea of what lies before him, he just knows that his bid to escape his childhood poverty “This is the story of how James Lewis became Charles Masson. It’s a pretty good story. There’s only one problem: like many other stories about Charles Masson, it may not entirely be true.” This quote from the book really sums it up! This is an astonishing story that starts in 1827 in India when Private James Lewis, a young soldier, walks out of his barracks towards a new life. He has no plan, no money and no idea of what lies before him, he just knows that his bid to escape his childhood poverty by enlisting in the Army had not worked. Despite being acknowledged as bright & “promising”, he finds that he is just as poor as before (whilst the officers were ostentatiously showing off their wealth) and he wants more from life. He gives himself a new name: Charles Masson, and with an interest in history gleaned from various books he read over the years, he embarks on a quest to discover one of the lost cities of Alexandria, originally built by Alexander the Great. Masson travels through India, Persia, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas getting involved in all sorts of situations from spying to helping exiled kings reclaim their thrones. Along the way, he finds evidence of a number of settlements along the “Silk Road” trading route, was probably the first European to see the ruins of the Bronze Age settlement at Harappa and also discovered the Buddhas at Bamiyan (sadly destroyed by the Taliban in 2001). Eventually being funded & sort of employed by the British East India Company, Masson surveyed over 100 sites and uncovered thousands of coins, caskets, jewels and other artefacts of which over 9000 objects ended up in the British Museum – this was long before it was understood that such items shouldn’t really be removed from their country of origin – and his work significantly contributed to the development of knowledge about the history of this area. It is a story that would be deemed “far fetched” or “improbable” if it were written as a novel, but the book has clear evidence of intense academic research and the author separates fact from fiction as much as possible (after all very little about Charles Masson is “true”) . The unlikely story of Charles Masson is summed up in this quote from the book: “Masson had walked into Afghanistan as a wandering storyteller, but he walked out of it one of the most respected scholars in Asia” Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy of this book free via NetGalley. Whilst thanks go to the publisher for the opportunity to read it, all opinions are my own. #Alexandria #NetGalley

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    Just finished this book, and wow! Alexandria is an incredibly well-researched and detailed account of the attempts of one man in unraveling of one of the ancient mysteries - the whereabouts of the lost city founded by Alexander the Great. There are thought to be at least 22 of these cities, all named Alexandria, but this is the story of how a very unlikely man discovered one of these cities in 19th century Afganistan. After years of travelling, storytelling, and assuming a very varied number of o Just finished this book, and wow! Alexandria is an incredibly well-researched and detailed account of the attempts of one man in unraveling of one of the ancient mysteries - the whereabouts of the lost city founded by Alexander the Great. There are thought to be at least 22 of these cities, all named Alexandria, but this is the story of how a very unlikely man discovered one of these cities in 19th century Afganistan. After years of travelling, storytelling, and assuming a very varied number of occupations (including esponiage!), Charles Masson, begins to unravel the mystery where many have failed. What I really enjoyed about this book was the frequent use of quotes from the writings and memoirs of the people this book followed. It really made their experiences and personalities become far more vibrant in my mind. I also found this book to be unique in the way it was written - it really was woven together like a story! I would suggest this book to someone who is wanting to try non-fiction books based on events or people in history, but is intimidated by the more formal detail-heavy writing. The storytelling style of the author really drew me in and made it easier to take in more information. I have to admit that for the first third of the book I thought it was historical fiction novel with strange excerpts from "character" diaries, and the reason I thought this for so long was largely the excellent storytelling! Throughout the book there was a lot of information on the events, especially political and army-related, going on around Masson, even when he himself appeared to be only tangentially involved. I can appreciate why however, and it did shape the world-view well. Some elements were educated guesses too, but it really helped to make the story come alive! *Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Martin Drew

    If this book was not written by a respected academic, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a rather over the top Boys Own adventure of the type written by G A Henty in the last years of the 19th century. But this is, almost unbelievably, a true story – and one which needed to be told because it rescues from public anonymity Charles Masson, East India Company deserter, reluctant spy and a truly important self-taught archaeologist whose work in Afghanistan added immensely to our knowledge of If this book was not written by a respected academic, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a rather over the top Boys Own adventure of the type written by G A Henty in the last years of the 19th century. But this is, almost unbelievably, a true story – and one which needed to be told because it rescues from public anonymity Charles Masson, East India Company deserter, reluctant spy and a truly important self-taught archaeologist whose work in Afghanistan added immensely to our knowledge of the history of that country. Edmund Richardson is a very readable writer, not a dry academic. In places you will laugh out loud, towards the end you might weep at the tragic stupidity of it all, but you will keep turning the pages because this is a really good story. In some ways it reminded me of Richard Hall’s “Lovers on the Nile” in the way it sheds light on an almost forgotten person and reintroduces them to a wider public. Masson deserves to be back in the public eye – he was a good archaeologist, sensitively excavating at a time when much archaeology was done with explosives. Although only slightly educated he was highly intelligent and managed to decipher the ancient script of the region, Kharoshthi. His finds, that included the Bimaran casket, he painstakingly catalogued. Tragically his superiors didn't value him or his knowledge of the country, and at crucial moments disregarded him always with disastrous results. Much of his work was lost and it has taken the British Museum years to catalogue his finds again. This is a fascinating book about an extraordinary man, I am pleased I read it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

    I am rather partial to picking up the odd history book and Alexandria appealed to me when I read the synopsis. That first paragraph referring to a man who, I initially thought was a bit of a rogue, has quite a remarkable life. Charles Masson decided that he didn't want to be in the East India Company, years of bad pay, awful work and no chance of raising his position basically up and walks out. Unbeknownst to him, this would be the start of a very remarkable life. The author has got a wonderful w I am rather partial to picking up the odd history book and Alexandria appealed to me when I read the synopsis. That first paragraph referring to a man who, I initially thought was a bit of a rogue, has quite a remarkable life. Charles Masson decided that he didn't want to be in the East India Company, years of bad pay, awful work and no chance of raising his position basically up and walks out. Unbeknownst to him, this would be the start of a very remarkable life. The author has got a wonderful way of approaching the story of Masson and has made it very addictive. The story charts what is known of Masson, the people he met, the politics of the time as well as the East India Company. There are loads of references and these have been listed at the end of the book so it makes it much easier reading. I have to say that the author changed my opinion of Masson, originally I thought him a bit of a rogue, this then changed to him being a man obsessed with finding Alexandria beneath the mountains. To finally feeling quite sorry for him. His quest to find one of the cities called Alexandria becomes all-consuming. He travels, talks to people, spends all his money and on occasion risks his life. He is robbed beaten, imprisoned, starved and on the brink of death but still, his pursuit continued. Yes, this is a non-fiction book, and yet it felt like a really fascinating action and adventure read. This is very much down to the skill of the author as he has created such a readable historical account. I adored reading this and it has also led me to a little of my own further reading about Masson and Alexander. One for history fans, such an informative book that was great reading. One I would definitely recommend.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Riveting True Adventure Deserter Charles Masson learns of the lost city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains and embarks on a quest across nineteenth-century India and Afghanistan in search of treasure, archaeology and derring-do. Alexandria is an extraordinary tale worthy of Rudyard Kipling or H Rider Haggard. At its heart is a mystery as much about Masson the master of disguise, as about Alexander the Great’s lost city. This non-fiction is peopled by braggarts, warlords, thieves, kings, confide Riveting True Adventure Deserter Charles Masson learns of the lost city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains and embarks on a quest across nineteenth-century India and Afghanistan in search of treasure, archaeology and derring-do. Alexandria is an extraordinary tale worthy of Rudyard Kipling or H Rider Haggard. At its heart is a mystery as much about Masson the master of disguise, as about Alexander the Great’s lost city. This non-fiction is peopled by braggarts, warlords, thieves, kings, confidence-tricksters, spies and holy men. Richardson proves himself a masterful storyteller and researcher of the history, land and cultures on which the incredible character of Masson left his mark. The author enriches the narrative with journal extracts and local proverbs. His love of the subject shines through every paragraph, and fully captivates the reader. My thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the ARC. A fascinating, rip-roaring page-turner from start to finish.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The unbelievable story of penniless Charles Masson (private James Lewis, deserter of the East India Company) and his unending drive to locate Alexander the Great's city Alexandria Beneath the Mountain reads like nothing I have read before. An 1800s adventure story of such great scope it feels like it must be a tall tale... except for the fact it is so well researched. Alexandria is an amazing story of resilience and perseverance for a man to live such a life of ups and downs only to see the bril The unbelievable story of penniless Charles Masson (private James Lewis, deserter of the East India Company) and his unending drive to locate Alexander the Great's city Alexandria Beneath the Mountain reads like nothing I have read before. An 1800s adventure story of such great scope it feels like it must be a tall tale... except for the fact it is so well researched. Alexandria is an amazing story of resilience and perseverance for a man to live such a life of ups and downs only to see the brilliant sights of Afghanistan no Western man had ever seen before. Afghanistan in the 1830s sounds a miraculous place – a glorious far cry from the Afghanistan we all know so well from the evening news. Masson is a character and one that I grew to like thanks to Edmund Richardson's well written book. I admit I knew nothing of Charles Masson prior to reading this book and feel glad I stumbled upon this book and the great discoveries held within its pages. It is a magical journey rich with history and culture not previously understood.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    A story about a storyteller. A fascinating story but, in my opinion, not the best written one. Edmund Richardson definitely would have had the skill to weave it well if he had only relied more on himself. I find it tedious when every other sentence is a quote from this or that letter, and is this passage from an essay or a song? Masson's journey is fascinating and he was done magnificently wrong by the East India Company but I found this a hard slog nonetheless. I wanted to like it, I could have A story about a storyteller. A fascinating story but, in my opinion, not the best written one. Edmund Richardson definitely would have had the skill to weave it well if he had only relied more on himself. I find it tedious when every other sentence is a quote from this or that letter, and is this passage from an essay or a song? Masson's journey is fascinating and he was done magnificently wrong by the East India Company but I found this a hard slog nonetheless. I wanted to like it, I could have loved it despite it not being my area of interest particularly much but the problem is that some things can be *too* well researched, a book should not be half quotes. No doubt brilliant if you want a history book, but it was not for me, I'm still very glad I read it though. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this and learn about Masson.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steven Feldman

    Alexandria by Edmund Richardson is one of those rare histories that turns out to be a page turning mystery. Alexandria is the story of Charles Masson; a chancer, an adventurer, a self taught archaeologist, a spy and ultimately a victim of class prejudice. It’s also a history of 19th century India and Afghanistan and the power and influence of the East India Company. I expected this book to be about Alexandria in Egypt but it turns out that throughout his conquests of Asia and the Middle East, Alex Alexandria by Edmund Richardson is one of those rare histories that turns out to be a page turning mystery. Alexandria is the story of Charles Masson; a chancer, an adventurer, a self taught archaeologist, a spy and ultimately a victim of class prejudice. It’s also a history of 19th century India and Afghanistan and the power and influence of the East India Company. I expected this book to be about Alexandria in Egypt but it turns out that throughout his conquests of Asia and the Middle East, Alexander founded cities which were named after him including one at Bagram in Afghanistan. Masson’s search for the relics of this Alexandria in a hostile Afghan landscape is threaded into the history of the kingdom and the machinations of the British. History or mystery, this is a great tale well told.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Hudson

    This was a fascinating biographical account of James Lewis, aka Charles Masson, whom we meet as he is deserting his post in the East India Trading Company in 1827. What follows is a bizarre journey across Afghanistan, India, and Egypt as Masson becomes increasingly driven to discover one of Alexander the Great’s lost cities. His transformation from wastrel to archaeologist is gripping, and reads like an adventure novel. This book is clearly meticulously researched and I found the dates, names, an This was a fascinating biographical account of James Lewis, aka Charles Masson, whom we meet as he is deserting his post in the East India Trading Company in 1827. What follows is a bizarre journey across Afghanistan, India, and Egypt as Masson becomes increasingly driven to discover one of Alexander the Great’s lost cities. His transformation from wastrel to archaeologist is gripping, and reads like an adventure novel. This book is clearly meticulously researched and I found the dates, names, and places, which come thick and fast at the start, a little overwhelming at first. However, the storytelling is excellent and I found myself increasingly drawn to the story. I would certainly recommend this book! My thanks to the author, NetGalley, and the publisher for the arc to review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Allison Valentine

    What a wonderfully written novel from the nineteenth century going from England to India, Afghanistan and all inbetween. When Charles Masson a normal working class boy signs up to the East India Shipping Company little did he know what was in store for him. After he deserted he was a wanted man but all he knew was that he had to follow in the footsteps of Alexandria and nothing would stop him. What Masson discovers along the way....not just his own humanity but violence, intrigue, blackmail, murde What a wonderfully written novel from the nineteenth century going from England to India, Afghanistan and all inbetween. When Charles Masson a normal working class boy signs up to the East India Shipping Company little did he know what was in store for him. After he deserted he was a wanted man but all he knew was that he had to follow in the footsteps of Alexandria and nothing would stop him. What Masson discovers along the way....not just his own humanity but violence, intrigue, blackmail, murder and more. This is such a powerful and epic journey and adventure.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    "Alexandria" is the absolutely astonishing story of Charles Masson. A deserter from the British East India Company, Charles Masson had an incredible life and this book has been researched so well that I enjoyed every word. The writing makes this book very easy to read, and I couldn't help but feel that the author was as astonished as me at some of the highlights of Masson's life. My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiase "Alexandria" is the absolutely astonishing story of Charles Masson. A deserter from the British East India Company, Charles Masson had an incredible life and this book has been researched so well that I enjoyed every word. The writing makes this book very easy to read, and I couldn't help but feel that the author was as astonished as me at some of the highlights of Masson's life. My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sharyn

    Like several other reviewers I was surprised by the focus of this book as I was expecting Alexandria, Egypt. But I enjoy nonfiction and was looking forward to reading about Mr Masson.. Unfortunately the writing style didn't suit me and I didn't like what I read of Mr Masson and his adventures and deceits. I skimmed quickly from about 20%. The book is undoubtedly well researched so three stars for that. With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review an e-ARC of Like several other reviewers I was surprised by the focus of this book as I was expecting Alexandria, Egypt. But I enjoy nonfiction and was looking forward to reading about Mr Masson.. Unfortunately the writing style didn't suit me and I didn't like what I read of Mr Masson and his adventures and deceits. I skimmed quickly from about 20%. The book is undoubtedly well researched so three stars for that. With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review an e-ARC of this title.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Took me a while to get going with this book after about 3 attempts I got going with this historical adventure across Egypt, Afghanistan and India. Ventured around a man who deserted and found himself without any purpose or direction so embarked on building a life for himself, well more of a thrilling adventure than a mundane existence. Really enjoyed the story and plot, the cultures and travels are so well explained. The author has done his research extremely well and it leaves you thinking, you Took me a while to get going with this book after about 3 attempts I got going with this historical adventure across Egypt, Afghanistan and India. Ventured around a man who deserted and found himself without any purpose or direction so embarked on building a life for himself, well more of a thrilling adventure than a mundane existence. Really enjoyed the story and plot, the cultures and travels are so well explained. The author has done his research extremely well and it leaves you thinking, you just couldn’t make this up. Excellent read, thank you #NetGalley for the copy to review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    This is a history book but it kept me hooked and turning pages as it's gripping. The author is master storyteller and I was fascinated by the story of James Lewis aka Charles Masson. There's plenty to learn from this book: ancient civilizations, archelogical discoveries, travel. A lof of information, quotes from original documents but it never was dry or pedantic. i loved what I read and I think that the author did an excellent job. It's highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley f This is a history book but it kept me hooked and turning pages as it's gripping. The author is master storyteller and I was fascinated by the story of James Lewis aka Charles Masson. There's plenty to learn from this book: ancient civilizations, archelogical discoveries, travel. A lof of information, quotes from original documents but it never was dry or pedantic. i loved what I read and I think that the author did an excellent job. It's highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

  18. 4 out of 5

    jean

    A wonderful tale of derring do and intrepid exploring, sadly also of British determination to force "uncivilised" countries to follow our way of life. The author pieces together the story of Charles Masson and his multiple personas with a real storyteller's gift and makes a complex historical period enjoyable to read. Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury publishing for an advance copy of this book A wonderful tale of derring do and intrepid exploring, sadly also of British determination to force "uncivilised" countries to follow our way of life. The author pieces together the story of Charles Masson and his multiple personas with a real storyteller's gift and makes a complex historical period enjoyable to read. Thank you to netgalley and Bloomsbury publishing for an advance copy of this book

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephen King

    Stunning. A hugely enjoyable and well researched account of Charles Masson (Richard Lewis) a deserter from the East India Company’s army who became an archaeological expert on the lost cities of Alexander the Great in Afghanistan. Masson’s deep sympathy for the meeting of cultures portrays him as a man of another age. The cruelty, arrogance and spitefulness of the EIC ultimately frustrates Masson’s scholarship and recognition for his finds. An extraordinary story from another age.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    This is a well written biography of Masson that encaptures the lost world of Afghanistan as it was in the early 19th century. The richnesd of the country and culture contrasts with the Afghanistan we see on our television these days. Richardson interweaves succinctly the history of Alexander with the narrative of Masson's adventures in a very readable 260 pages. This is a well written biography of Masson that encaptures the lost world of Afghanistan as it was in the early 19th century. The richnesd of the country and culture contrasts with the Afghanistan we see on our television these days. Richardson interweaves succinctly the history of Alexander with the narrative of Masson's adventures in a very readable 260 pages.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anand Chopra-McGowan

    One of the best history books I’ve read in a long time. Charles Masson’s story is researched with academic rigour and told with cinematic grip. My only complaint - the sheer volume of quoted original source material means that a good deal of the book is in archaic English, which can make for some sense reading at times. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Graham

    This book follows the eventful life of Charles Masson and is a tale amusingly told. As the author concedes, how much of it is true is an open question. I would have found more maps helpful and a synopsis of who is who would also have been useful. Overall, a good read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richard Biddle

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My only criticism is that it jumped around and the narrative was confused/ confusing in places. This wasn't helped by the use of ibid in the endnotes, which made it difficult to work out who quotes related too. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My only criticism is that it jumped around and the narrative was confused/ confusing in places. This wasn't helped by the use of ibid in the endnotes, which made it difficult to work out who quotes related too.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Stirring all the romantic imagery of adventure across The heights of Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush to lost cities and cultured while constructing a narrative tragedy of Charles Masson. A miraculous work of scholarship bringing the pothos of Masson to its deserving stage.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mat

    TelRev5

  26. 4 out of 5

    Harri

    Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City takes the reader on a journey through 19th century India and Afghanistan, following Charles Masson, a man with an obsession with Alexander the Great. Masson spent much of his life searching for one of Alexander's lost cities, and in 1833 actually discovered some evidence of it. This book is engaging and interesting right from the very beginning. The first chapter is told more like a story and is really descriptive. It gets the feeling of time and place acro Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City takes the reader on a journey through 19th century India and Afghanistan, following Charles Masson, a man with an obsession with Alexander the Great. Masson spent much of his life searching for one of Alexander's lost cities, and in 1833 actually discovered some evidence of it. This book is engaging and interesting right from the very beginning. The first chapter is told more like a story and is really descriptive. It gets the feeling of time and place across really well, and I was instantly curious about Masson, and Afghanistan, and the adventurous life he lived. This book has clearly been extensively researched, with Richardson separating fact from fiction, an epic task when dealing with a man who was not entirely honest about his own life and background. The book has plenty of diary and letter quotes, with perspectives from many of the people around Masson. It really is a fascinating story. I had been expecting more about archeology and the city itself. This book is more about Masson's own life story and the politics of 19th century Afghanistan. It was not a topic I had read about before, but this book has made me want to learn more.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Verity W

    *****copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review ******** A fascinating story and impeccably researched but sometimes a little dense. And with so many name changes it’s sometimes hard to keep track of what’s going on with whom. A new area of history for me - in geographical terms, but not in terms of the East India Company and its machinations.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julie Friar

    It is 1833 and Charles Masson is searching for the lost city of Alexandria. Fascinating book about this man and his search. Lots of hardships, violence but he carries on with hope to continue his search.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carol Keogh (Goodfellow)

    Well written and very well researched, this book offers great insight into the amazing history of Alexandria (all of them). I did not realise the complexity of discovering the many twists and turns in the history of this city. Great storytelling.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nate Rabe

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