'The next Bill Bryson.’ New York Times
Having been dragged against his will to live in Denmark, Michael Booth discovered one of the great secrets of travel literature - Andersen's A Poet's Bazaar - a fascinating travelogue through a Europe on the cusp of revolution, by an author who invented children's literature. He discovered, too, his chance to escape Denmark.
In 1840 Andersen was also desperate to flee, writing as he sailed: 'It is just as well I am leaving, my soul is unwell!' In Germany he was enraptured both by steam travel and the fiery Franz Liszt. In sultry Naples this latent bisexual wrestled with his erotic demons before travelling to Athens (little more than a village), seeing the dervishes dance in Istanbul, and sailing home up the Danube. Booth follows him every step of the way, reflecting on Andersen's life, work and pathological self-obsession, encountering his own cast of characters, from an accommodating Hamburg prostitute to a bemused Danish Ambassador to the first ever female dervish, who whisks him off to meet her guru.