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Reviews

  • Antwerp is the star of this charming and rather lovely history ... Pye writes beautifully, has a lovely eye for detail and an obvious affection for this period of Antwerp's history.

    Peter Frankopan, The Observer
  • In the 16th century Antwerp was Europe's marketplace, a tolerant, secular city governed by money. It was a spectacular place, a rogue's paradise where everything seemed possible. The city's story is as convoluted as its streets. There is no single plot and there are no straight narrative lines. Michael Pye is the perfect chronicler of this extraordinary place, being a writer of deep complexity, immense imagination and opulent prose. His cornucopia of Antwerp's abundant delights is as voluptuous as the city itself.

    Gerard DeGroot, The Times Books of the Year
  • wondrous ... a book of imaginative historical reconstruction that reads as brilliantly as a novel by Hilary Mantel

    Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday
  • in his exhilarating new history of Renaissance Antwerp ... Pye captures Antwerp's greatest decades in character studies, stories and vignettes, encompassing not just trade but buildings and books too. It is pieced together with great skill and art, and the effect is dazzling. If you want a linear history of 16th century Antwerp, stay away. But if you want a sense of the city's anarchic splendour, its potent, unsustainable originality, then this is the book for you. Pye conjures up exactly the glamour that drew people to Antwerp's gates in its pomp: the city as idea; the city as improvisation; the city as possibility.

    Matthew Lyons, Literary Review
  • Antwerp, Pye's galloping and flavoursome account of the city's heyday [is] a lustrous gem of a book. Studded with racy anecdotes but firmly embedded in archival research, it shows why the city that nurtured "a pragmatic kind of tolerance" rose so fast - and why, almost as rapidly, it fell ... Pye unrolls a sparkling string of stories rather than a heavy tapestry of contexts, hinterlands and aftermaths ... In this swarming fresco, which merits a place near Simon Schama's The Embarrassment of Riches or Robert Hughes' homage to Barcelona, Pye not only rescues Antwerp's lost "world of liberty", he leads entranced readers through its grubby, glittering streets.

    Boyd Tonkin, Financial Times
  • Capturing the essence of 16th-century Antwerp is difficult; its story is as convoluted as its streets. That story does not lend itself to linearity; there's no single plot, no straight narrative lines. Michael Pye - journalist, broadcaster and prolific author - is the perfect chronicler of this extraordinary place, since he revels in complexity and never hesitates to use his abundant imagination. His prose is as opulent as the city itself. ... Pye provides a cornucopia of Antwerp's abundant delights.

    Gerard DeGroot, The Times
  • Pye offers a master class on how to tell the story of a city. Fascinating and gloriously good fun.

    Gerard DeGroot, Twitter
  • Now a museum-like gem, for much of the 16th century, Antwerp thrived as Europe's most vibrant center of commerce, intellectual life, and free thought. Pye offers a colorful depiction of the city's 'exceptional years.' Entertaining. An impressionistic portrait of its institutions and great men (Bruegel, Erasmus, et al.), emphasizing the lives of now-obscure traders, bankers, entrepreneurs, officials, printers, and booksellers, including a surprising number of successful women and Jews. A vivid look at a great Renaissance city.

    Kirkus
  • In a highly readable new book, Michael Pye argues that, during Europe's ages of discovery, it became one of the earliest genuinely global cities too ... If we understood more about Antwerp, though, we might understand more about ourselves and our long umbilical links to Europe.

    The Guardian

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