Cover image for The siege of Isfahan
The siege of Isfahan
Rufin, Jean-Christophe, 1952-
Uniform Title:
Sauver Isfahan. English
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2001]

Physical Description:
373 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Sequel to: The Abyssinian.
Added Author:
Format :


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It is twenty years since Jean-Baptiste Poncet, through his apothecary skills and daring diplomacy, cured the ailing Negus of Abyssinia and saved that country from the political ambitions of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.Poncet now finds himself in Isfahan, capital of Persia, practicing medicine in the court of the Shah. In order to rescue his old friend Juremi, imprisoned in the Urals, Poncet travels in disguise to Russia, where he engages in a diplomatic duel of wits with Peter the Great. The friends, reunited, are captured by nomads and sold as slaves in Afghanistan. This the beginning of Poncet's circuitous return to Isfahan, where his wife and daughter are trapped inside the walls by a besieging army of the Afghan king, Mahmud.Subtle, erudite, exciting, and beautifully crafted, this is historical fiction that belongs on the shelf beside the work of Patrick O'Brian.

Author Notes

Jean-Christophe Rufin is a founder of Doctors without Borders and author of the prize-winning first novel The Abyssinian. He lives in France.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the exhilarating sequel to The Abyssinian, native Frenchman Jean Baptiste Poncet, an intrepid apothecary-doctor concealing a shadowy past, is now practicing medicine in the court of the shah of Persia. When Poncet learns that Peter the Great has imprisoned a dear old friend, he travels to Russia, employing his sharp wits and finely honed diplomatic skills to set him free. Since nothing is ever that simple for Poncet, both men are captured by nomads and sold as slaves as they attempt to work their way back to Isfahan, where the lives of their wives are threatened by the Afghan siege of the city. Exotic historical fiction teeming with all the passion, mystery, and romance of the Orient. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reaching back into the archive of characters that made The Abyssinian an international success, Rufin once again sends his gallant French apothecary, Jean-Baptiste Poncet, on a journey through the great empires of the Middle East. This time, Poncet must leave his home in early 18th-century Isfahan, the capital of Persia, to rescue his best friend, Juremi, who has been captured and imprisoned in Russia. First, however, Poncet must fake death to escape the clutches of a Persian king who wants Poncet to be his personal physician. After making his getaway and finding his friend, Poncet is again captured and sold as a slave in Russia; back in Isfahan his wife, Alix, is forced from the family home when a conquering army of Afghans threatens the city. But the worst fate befalls Poncet's red-haired 16-year-old daughter, Saba, who as a "red virgin" is selected to be sacrificed to save Isfahan. After many adventures on the steppes, Poncet and Juremi return to Persia as elephant-keepers in the custody of a band of Afghan warriors. Their efforts to rescue Saba are prodigious, but in the end Saba must rescue herself, and along with her the besieged population of Isfahan. Poncet proves once again to be a lively, engaging protagonist, and Rufin is an able storyteller who keeps his tale moving while offering a wealth of information about the politics and customs of the civilizations of the Middle East. (Mar.) Forecast: Though The Abyssinian won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt, Rufin's novels are more popular than literary, which explains the mixed critical reception for that novel in the U.S. This sequel will do best if booksellers target readers of popular historical fiction. A four-city author tour will give Rufin extra U.S. exposure. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Hero of the Prix Goncourt-winning The Abyssinian, Jean-Baptiste Poncet has even more adventures this time around. He rescues a friend in the Urals, endures slavery in Afghanistan, and then rushes back to Isfahan to save his wife when the city is besieged. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.