When the Acknowledgements contain something like the following, you know you’re in for a good read:
“…we had an oddly English lunch in the drizzle, with rugs and cucumber sandwiches and plastic cups of Chardonnay. If you ignored his ever-alert phalanx of bodyguards, their walkie-talkies crackling and assault rifles primed, as well as the litter of wrecked Soviet APCs and downed helicopter gunships, it could almost have been the Cotswolds.”
The boy can write! How is this for a description of the Afghan spring:
“Now the small, sweet-smelling Istalif irises were pushing their way through the frozen ground, the frosted rime on the trunks of the deodars was running to snowmelt, and the Ghilzai nomads were unlatching their fat-tailed sheep from the winter pens, breaking down their goat-hair tents and readying the flocks for the first of the spring migrations to the new grass of the high pastures.”
And that is only the first page of Chapter 1. I’d better get on and read the rest of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, by William Dalrymple, as we’re going to a talk he’s giving next week.