Customer Reviews for

Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu

Average Rating 4
( 30 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(15)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(2)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Awesome book!!!

I've read Mr. Bergreen's book on Magellan and as soon as I saw that he wrote a book on Marco Polo I picked it right up. He has such a great way of writing without sounding too wordy, it's easy to understand and follow. He's by far one of my favorite authors.

posted by 1774923 on August 18, 2009

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review

Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

No decent map

It is pretty amazing that an account of the travels of Marco POlo includes no decent map.

posted by Anonymous on December 21, 2007

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 2
  • Posted November 3, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Historical Accuracy?

    After having read only about 50 pages of this book, I am seriously questioning the historical accuracy of it. I am an amateur of Medieval, and in particular Venetian, history and I find that Mr. Bergreen oversimplifies and generalizes some events and conditions of 13th C Europe to a bothering degree. For example, he paints the Venetians as merchants bent on warfare where most historical sources show that they preferred to carry on matters peacefully since that was, indeed, more profitable for business, and only engaged in warfare when they felt their business interests were threatened. He also portrays the city of Venice itself as a sinister place ripe with disease, corruption, social inequality, intrigue and abuse of women. What Mr. Bergreen fails to do is compare the conditions in Venice with other those in other European cities and states where they were no better, if not worse. In fact, in many ways 13th C Venice was arguably far more enlightened than many other places with its functioning republican government, its strong mechant marine, its developing business acumen and its strong international ties. These are just a few of the inaccuracies I found.<BR/><BR/>My concerns being thus about the first part of the book, I am skeptical about the accuracy of what I am about to read - of which I have less thorough knowledge. I am afraid I will have to take it with the proverbial "grain of salt" and also keep in mind, as another reviewer has stated, that Marco Polo's memoirs were not intended as historical fact, but as engaging adventure tales told while he was in prison.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2007

    No decent map

    It is pretty amazing that an account of the travels of Marco POlo includes no decent map.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2007

    A Good Primer for Polo

    The difficulty in writing a biography about Marco Polo is the fact that the only thing we know about him comes from his autobiography, Il Milione. Polo's biographers run the risk of writing a glorified book report if grafting too much of Polo's original work. In Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, author Laurence Bergreen tries to avoid this trap by introducing historical and geographical context. Bergreen's presentation shifts like the desert sands in central Asia, a tactic that keeps the reader interested throughout this quick read book. Having never read any account of Polo's life, I enjoyed the book. But I honestly found Bergreen's information in the closing chapters and Epilogue more interesting. Bergreen's explanation on the lack of a definitive version of Il Milione, a name given by critics of Polo's 'million' lies, was insightful as was his treatment of Polo's life after Asia.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Awesome book!!!

    I've read Mr. Bergreen's book on Magellan and as soon as I saw that he wrote a book on Marco Polo I picked it right up. He has such a great way of writing without sounding too wordy, it's easy to understand and follow. He's by far one of my favorite authors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2008

    More informative than captivating

    The information is interesting and extensive, but I found the book somewhat dry for me personally. In a one word, I would define it as a 'report' than a 'page-turner'. This is book I personally would rent from the library, read and return, rather than buy.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Fascinating but slow reading

    I got this book because I really liked the author's book on Magellan. This book is very well researched and very interesting but not as easily read. I found it hard to get into, it started with the travels of Marco's father and uncle, but kept going until Marco joined in the adventures. Marco found many unusual habits and customs on his travels, and the author always discusses whether or not he is telling the truth. The things Marco experienced were incredible. I can certainly understand why Venice,at the time, called him a liar. I'd recommend reading it to learn about the travels. I won't recommend it for our bookclub just because it doesn't interest everyone, but if you have historical curiosity, I'd read it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, by Laurence Bergreen

    This is a fascinating review of the travels of Marco Polo, which is distilled from his actual Travels as transcribed during his incarceration in Genoa following his epochal return to Venice from his travels. He had assumed the position of captain of a warship in the nacy of Venice in its periodic war with Genoa for control of the trade routes.

    The narrative of the story reads as a fascinating story of adventure in cultural diversity, geography, the court of Kubla Kahn, and the charming sexuality of various regions of the Mongol controlled Middle East and East. The young adventurer had a grand time, traveling with his father and uncle as merchants for their business, the Polo Company.

    We all tend to think of ourselves as living in a modern age. Yet, as one reads this evolutionary story, it is perfectly apparent that nothing has really changed in the world except the passage of time. We still have all the same hassles, domestic economic conditions, international trade, conflict along the trade lines, war, domestic strife within the family, ad mauseum.

    Marco Polo is not a history, nor is it a travelogue. Rather, it is a fascinating, well told adventure, which is brought into easily read context by Mr. Bergreen. Each of us experiences the journey of our lifetime. It is interesting to read about the remarkable journey of Marco Polo, and to think through the questions that it frames for our own lives.

    For example, what must it have been like for Marco to return to the quaint Venice after the genuinely unique experiences he had on his 17 year journey to places where white men had apparently not been, or not been in recorded tomes? How would you feel if this had been you?

    Marco's travels commenced at the culmination of the Christian defeat in the last Crusade, as well as the departure of the Papacy to Avignon, France seeking to find a more hospitable environment. There was chaos in the Chistian world, in which Islam had taken an upper hand, even as the Mongols were stretching across Indochina and China.

    From the standpoint of a historian or social commentator, there are many parallels to the present time.

    From the standpoint of a thriller writer, it also provides rich thesaurus of relationships and challenges to be adapted for the backgrounds of international thrillers.

    A salute and tip of the hat for a great read and thought-provoking ideas for adventures and conflicts that could be woven into the fabric of a new story.

    For more reviews by Cym Lowell, please visit www.cymlowell.blogspot.com

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 30, 2008

    A reinterpretation of the Travels of Marco Polo

    Marco?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2007

    None

    This was a great book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    Bergreen's trenchant 13th century march from Europe to Asia and back alongside the itinerant Marco Polo reminds us at once of the shifting borders of empire and the constancy of the human spirit. Like Marco Polo, Bergreen himself has taken trips of times and places and of such fantastic richness and variety, he leaves us spell-bound. Here Bergreen has written another of his first-rate books of grace and erudition on an astonishing range of subjects, wondering whether there is anything that would astonish him the way Asia did Polo. He has published biographies of Louis Armstrong and Irving Berlin, James Agee and Al Capone, a travel history of Magellan's world voyage, a work on NASA's search for life on Mars, and now the travels of Marco Polo. Polo grew from boy to middle-aged man in the court and the thrall of the great Ghenghis Khan, a poor Mongolian nomad who rose to rule history's largest empire - from what is now eastern China to the Western edges of Asia. In the process, he encounters riches, toughness, brutality, animals, tools and ways of life new to him and astonishing to us. Like the blind man describing the elephant, he tells us of the magical Chinese rods of black rock taken from the ground that burn endlessly with red and white heat. In that case, it was coal that he came upon. The description, exactly accurate, but equally incomprehensible, reminds us how much we depend on context and knowledge to understand what we read and hear. Bergreen presents Polo in layers, each contributing to the richness of this work, but all together necessary and sufficient to find the man, the period and the historiography edifying. He uses as his outline the travel history Polo told to his companion Rusticello, tested by accounts published during the last seven centuries in Europe and Asia, interpreted and tweezed with the help of modern scholars of the period, to bring his reader to what are likely to be the best conclusions we can make about what was really seen by whom and when. All of history looks to modernity a bit like that 13th century piece of coal looked liked to Marco Polo - odd, incomprehensible, hard to place and hard to describe. Bergreen does a brilliant job of shining the light forward, sharing with us the many guesses historians must make when trying to see back through eight dark centuries of miasma to the 'truth' hiding among few original documents. This one is another triumph for the wandering Bergreen. Keep wandering, Mr. Bergreen, and keep telling the rest of us what you find.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2007

    You Must Be Joking, Mr. Polo

    There may have been other adventurers who left Europe as teenagers in the thirteenth century, made their way across continents into the court of the largest empire in world history, and then made their way home safely a generation later, living in the meantime a life of risk and reward that would be unimaginable to a terrestrial today. But there was only one who told the story to an author of colorful 'romances.' And he, a man named Rustichello, retold the stories of the wanderer Marco Polo for history, or at least for author Laurence Bergreen, who has retold it better for us. Bergreen, one of those great new creatures of modernity - a brilliant, worldly, tireless, non-academic historian and biographer - peels the onion of the impenetrable 'Travels' of Marco Polo, filling in with level-headed, well-crafted reviews of the eight centuries of historiography borne of Polo's original work. Walking the walk, in part, Polo walked, testing the text against its many interpretations and criticisms and tweezing out the best modern wisdom from today's leading scholars, Bergreen has brought to us in great style the wide-eyed amazement of a 13th century European meeting the East for the first time. Polo described in his 'Travels' politics, social organizations, architecture, money and people so different from those of his home that his descriptions sometimes sound like the blind men examining the elephant. He found black, soft rocks, taken from the earth that magically burned white hot without ever flaming up. This was coal, never before known to a European as a fuel. Clinically accurate and completely without context, the 'truth' of this observation makes us smile and also gives credibility to other Polo observations not so easily contextualized today. Bergreen must have had the sense that he followed a man in some ways like himself as he pieced together this fantastic story, its context and its many faces through the last 800 years. Like Polo, Bergreen has repeatedly wandered into places so disparate and opaque that only a hugely observant author of endless energy could find a reasonable proximity to the truth in each of them. He has done this in first-rate biographies of men whose names have never been put in a single paragraph before: James Agee, Al Capone, Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin. He has also written a fine historical work on the astonishing world voyage of Magellan and of NASA's search for life on Mars. This new work is a delight to read, rich in content, easy in style, respectful but not overly reverent of its primary source.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
Page 1 of 2