- Author: Patrick Fermor
- Title: A Time of Gifts
- Published: 1977
- Title: quote van Twelfth Night (poem by L. MacNeice)
- Illustration: John Craxton
- List of Challenges 2019
- Monthly plan
- #TBR 2019 challenge update
- #TBR 2018 challenge update
- If you are looking for a nice rambling
- …colorful travelogue this is not the book for you.
- The travel diaries (1933) have been combed through
- and embellished to create this book in 1976.
- The narrative lacks a spark of spontaneity because
- Fermor’s travel thoughts have been resting for many years
- and the book suffers from many rewrites before it was
- …finally published.
- In all fairness, the book was received with
- tremendous enthusiasm (1976).
- It won:
- Thomas Cook Travel Award
- International PEN/Time Life Silver Pen Award
- W.H. Smith Prize (1978)
- So…you may still like this book
- …but I did not.
- Nicest passages are during Fermor’s walks
- through the countryside from village to village.
- No history, no hangovers, no libraries, no castles with
- moat and polished wood floors
- …just nature.
- Book oozes a special kind of personalized disorder!
- Fermor blends history, literature, biography, myth
- with his visits to cathedrals, libraries, pubs with or
- without a hangover!
Strong point: ‘The Hook”…that kept me reading
- Ch 1: Low Countries: good…
- Vivid images of boat leaving the estuary of the Thames River
- …describing Dutch landscape and interiors with comparisons
- of great paintings Brueghelish
- ….skaters, hunters in the snow.
- Fermor keeps his writing centered on his travels
- …no long daydreams or history.
- Up the Rhine:
- The book does not flow
- ….gets bogged down
- in Fermor’s musings:
- Fermor interjects the travel narrative
- ….with memories, historical trivia:
- …going back fourteen years (pg 43)
- …memories of school learning (pg 82)
- …theater for so much history (pg 92)
- …landsknechts in time of Emperor Max I (pg 96-101)
- Fermor admits it himself
- …slowing the narrative down!
- “…I must try to convey, even if it slows things
- up for a couple of pages.” (pg 123-133)
- The Danube: Seasons and Castles
- Brooding over one’s ignorance of painting (pg 147-156)
- …again slowing down.
- The Danube: Approach to a Kaiserstadt
- …let us run quickly through
- ..the relevant part of the story (The Tempest)
- …again slowing down (pg 170-171)
Fermor fills Vienna (3 week visit)
- …with anecdotes
- …not much wandering around the town.
- Hangover after last days of Carnival
- …visit to Akademie Library…
- …more musings about history and maps.
The Edge of the Slav World = …all history
- Cathedrals are always important part of the narrative
- (Cologne, Vienna, Prague)
- …but we end up with …another hangover
- …another library in The Old University
- …more history.
Slovakia: A Step Forward at Last
- Sorry, my eyes glazed over during this chapter
Marches of Hungary
- Fermor …cites direct long passages of his diary
- …perhaps he was too tired ( as I am now) to elucidate
- on this chapter.
- As a young man, the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor
- walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1933/34.
- A Time of Gifts (vol 1) ends on the
- Maria Valeria Bridge in Slovakia.
- Fermor has difficulty leaving Slovakia
- and plunging into Hungry
- …but he must move on.
- I’ve really lost interest (57%)
- I kept up with Fermor from
- December 1933 …leaving England
- and just lost interest in February 1934
- in the little village of Maidling Im Tal, Austria
- Just skimming to finish the book.
- The BEST travel book I’ve read was
- Deep South (2015) by Paul Theroux!
- Now, that was an excellent book
- …worth your reading time!
- Author: E. Pisani
- Title: Indonesia ect.
- Published: 2014
- List of Challenges 2018
- Monthly planning
- Non-Fiction Reading List
- Finished: 22.12.2018
- Genre: non-fiction
- Rating: B+
- “Indonesia etc”….I know nothing about it.
- But Elizabeth Pisani’s book is the perfect place to start.
- She seamlessly blends her personal travelogue with fascinating facts
- about the most invisible country in the world.
- Indonesia occupies a unique place in among Asia’s major powers.
- The stronger Indonesia becomes, the more it could protect
- …other lands against China becoming THE dominant power in Asia.
- If it keeps its act together, will grow fast over the next few decades.
- and become a serious strategic player in Asia in its own right.
- Author: Lois Pryce
- Title: Revolutionary Road (19 chapters ) (Iran)
- Published: 2017
- List of Challenges 2018
- Monthly plan
- Trivia: Shortlisted E. Stanford Travel Book of the Year 2017
- Pryce tells us that the idea to visit Shiraz, Iran was
- …based on a message from ‘Habib’ clipped to her motorcycle.
- She probably had a book in mind from the outset
- and chose this destination to see for herself
- where the myths and the truth
- overlapped in her knowledge of Iran.
- We follow her from Tabriz, Quzvin, Tehran, Isfahan
- …ending the trip in Yzad and Shiraz.
- Lois Pryce is a British journalist and a motorcycle traveler.
- Two qualities that enable her to write the book are:
- she is an established writer of non-fiction with a distinctive style and
- she approaches her travelogue as objective journalism.
- But any journey has a life of its own
- It is always defined by place, time and personality.
- Strong point: Pryce highlights the perils
- a woman faces traveling alone in Iran
- She succeeds in telling us about
- …the reality of women’s lives in that country.
- Strong point: Pryce shows her strength during
- a few nerve-wracking experiences:
- being tailgated by cars/ trucks on deserted back roads
- or attacked at a petrol station.
- Pryce learns that unease and anxiety are
- part of the process and cannot be rushed.
- Strong point: Pryce reports the conversations with
- ordinary Iranians as they explain the how the 1979
- Revolution and sanctions have impacted their lives.
- Tone: this changes according to Pryce’s mood.
- There were time she battled homesickness
- ….or was visibly shaken by a ‘fender bender’ in Tehran.
- At times Pryce felt a primal urge to
- …hide away for a while in a hotel.
- She needed some shelter.
- The hotel’s family invited her to the family for a meal
- …and after dinner opium smoke!
- For the first time all the tension in
- …her road-wary muscles was seeping away.
- A dreamy sense of well being washed over her.
- Lois Pryce sums up her feelings:
- “I had been bracing myself for all
- the horrors predicted by the
- …doom-mongers back home.
- But instead I had been hit with a tidal wave of
- warmth and humanity to a degree
- that I have never experienced
- …anywhere in the world.
- Traveling is always an adventure
- but Lois Pryce has taken it to a new level:
- a woman on a solo motorcycle journey
- …through the Middel East, Iran.
- What will she come up against? How will she cope?
- This is an impressive piece of travel writing!
- Author: Paul Theroux
- Title: Deep South
- Published: 2015
- Trivia: Shortlist Stanford Travel Book of the Year 2017
- List of Challenges 2018
- Monthly reading plan
Genre: non-fiction travel writing
- Flyspecks on a map….
- …forgotten towns with a creek or running stream
- …they were all backwaters literally and figuratively.
- Deep South by P. Theroux surprises me with every page.
- From North Carolina through Georgia,
- Tennessee and Alabama to Mississippi and Arkansas….
- in his first book to focus on his homeland,
- the veteran travel writer and novelist finds segregation
- still thrives in the old Confederate states.
- Paul Theroux is more interested in
- conversationthan sightseeing
- …the heart an soul of family narratives…the human wealth.
- Theroux captures the essence of the Deep South.
- At the moment in The Netherlands ( where this ex-pat lives) the news is
- all about the elderly who are becoming very lonely.
- People are living longer and must cope with a
- type of isolation due to physical health and mobility.
- NOT once in Theroux’s book is the word loneliness mentioned.
- Because it is ‘the Southern way‘ to always be of
- assistance regardless of class, color or creed.
- …or if you aree a stranger from the North taking notes (Paul Theroux)
- ” Kin Ah h’ep you….in inny way? is the motto of the Deep South.
- Sometimes I don’t want a book to end….this is that kind of book!
- Theroux is a traveler but also a lover of literature.
- He explores Southern Fiction (especially Faulkner) to give the reader
- access to the reflective interior of southern states
- …so passive….so mute.
- Author: Kapka Kassabova
- Title Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe
- Published: 2017
- Trivia: Winner 2017 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards
- Category: Travel Book of the Year
- #WorldFromMyArmchair (Bulgaria)
- #MagicSquare Challenge – Award winner
Borders….where the fabric is thin.
Writing style: Kassabova has succeeded in writing ‘travel literature’.
I felt was reading art instead of social commentary about the Balkan region (Bulgaria, border with Greece and Turkey.)
Strong point: Instead of repeating the politics of the region, Kassabova focused on understanding what happened to the people and their heritage. “Rumour remained the preferred currency.” (pg 53)
Angst an Architecture: Kassabova stops by a gangster-baroque villa. (pg 44). She meets a whisky sipping local pensioner, a man of leisure, ex- state security, trophy wife in bikini, expensive swiss watch and a …very menacing message. “ In the old days we had methods for the likes of you.” Progressives….who go around asking questions.
Green border: 1960-1989
Kassabova takes the reader into the Bulgarian green border of Strandja Forest. Many tried to escape from Warsaw Pact side (Bulgaria) to the …NATO side (Greece or Turkey) because this green border seemed easier to cross than the Berlin Wall. Many…never reached their destination.
Tone: Book oozes dark, sinister, mysterious stories in hushed tones about what happened in the Balkans.
Voice: Kassabova lets her personality show between the lines. She is playful, cheeky, personal and inspiring and in my opinion very brave to start on this adventure!
- Sometime I just read a book
- …but this time I lived in the book….Border.
- Absolutely wonderful…!
- Author: Marie-Elsa Bragg
- Title Towards Mellbreak
- Published: 2017
- Trivia: Shortlisted for Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards
- Category: sense of place
- #WorldFromMyArmchair (English Lake District)
- #MagicSquare Challenge – ‘shortlisted book’
- I started this book this morning
- ….and could not stop reading.
- It is absolutely magnificent!
- Livre très attachant,
- C’est touchant à l’extrème.
- C’est d’une puissance rare!
- ..pastoral tone of hardworking country folk
- working in the fells with their sheep.
- Esther and Harold meet and Harold says:
- ‘”She might be right. Might be a fit”
- Esther’s life is a challenge.
- She raises a family, helps run the farm and
- ….still cares for mother who is slipping into dementia.
- “Aey, she just needs settled. Likes the old memories best….We all do”.
- One on the most touching quotes about Esther was:
- “The soil looked like how she felt half-done, half-lived.“
- Marie-Elsa Bragg has written a breathtaking story of
- …pastoral life, struggles to survive on a farm
- …and trying to find strength to battle personal demons.
- Towards Mellbreak is the place where Harold finds peace.
It’s a winner in my opinion!
Here are some other shortlisted books in this category:
Tanami Desert Australian Sunset
- Author: Kim Mahood
- Title: Position Doubtful
- Published: 2016
- Genre: autobiography
- Trivia: (NT) #AusReadingMonth @Brona’s Books
- Trivia: #AWW @AusWomenWriters
- Trivia: List of Challenges 2017
- Trivia: #NonFicNov
- Trivia: #WorldFromMyArmchair challenge 2017
- Trivia: Position Doubtful was shortlisted for the
- 2017 Victorian Premier’s Award for non-fiction
- 2017 National Biography Award Australia and
- 2017 WON Australian Book Industry Award for the Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year.
- The book is named after a term Mahood came across
- …in her father’s account of his expedition
- across the Tanami Desert in 1962.
- He observed that the only landmark marked anywhere near his route
- …was marked Position Doubtful.
Kim, daughter of a Tanami rancher…
- grew up in the region of Tanami Desert
- …on a cattle station in East Kimberley.
- She was raised in part by Aboriginal people.
- She has a distinctly different and deeper relationship
- with the community here…
- living and working in Mulan for three months out of the year.
- Mahood has been painting a set of very large canvases
- that are at first simple topographical maps of the land.
- The maps are both works of art, but also
- documents that can help influence politics and policies.
In this book Mahood takes us with her as she returned for
- 20 years to a remote pocket of inland Australia that extends
- across the Tanami Desert to the edge of East Kimberley.
- A one time pilgrimage to the country of her late childhood has
- morphed into yearly field trips with her artist friend Pam Lofts.
- “We were like migratory birds, driven to return year after year.” (pg 290)
There were very arcane chapters in which Manhood explains
- how she uses archaeological grids as an intermediary between
- her map making project and observance of aboriginal paintings.
- She learns to read the desert landscape with skill.
- Mahood uses these skills to give her maps and paintings the
- visual shimmer of the desert breathing the Aboriginal essence into her works.
On a personal note….Mahood touchingly reveals her grief for
- friend Pam Lofts as she dies from MND (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
- She describes the map of their friendship.
- Mahood’s also makes peace with dog ghosts
- — Old Sam who made the first pilgrimage,
- Slippers for seven trips and now her pal Pirate.
The best chapters are the last 3:
- Unstable Horizons
- …just because they are so personal. (pg 286 – 339)
- This was a very informative but more importantly moving book.
- Kim Mahood can PAINT and WRITE !
- It is a combination of Jung and Geography
- It confirms what I also feel
- ….place, memory and emotion are inextricably linked.
- Bravo…Kim Mahood
- #MustRead or #MustListen audiobook.
- PS: For @Brona’s Books
- …I learned another word that pops into my head
- ….when I think of Australia: “the cockroach bush!”
- Trivia: Dr. Rebe Taylor is an Australian historian.
- Her book Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity
- won the University of Southern Queensland History Book Award 2017.
- Into the Heart of Tasmania is a new history of Aboriginal Tasmania
- …the eccentric Englishman Ernest Westlake (geologist)
- ….and his hunt for man’s origins.
Who was Ernest Westlake? (1855-1922)
- English amateur scientist Ernest Westlake from about 1870 to 1920.
- The man who loved stones and the history they revealed!
- Westlake was officially a geologist… unofficially a self taught anthropologist
- The story of Ernest Westlake his collections is brought to life this book.
- I was most interested in what I could learn about Tasmania by reading Rebe Talylor’s book.
What did Westlake do?
- In 1908 E. Westlake packed a tent, a bicycle and forty tins of food and
- sailed from Liverpool to Port Melbourne Australia.
- He believed he found on the island of Tasmania the remnants (stone tools)
- …of an extinct race the Tasmanian Aboriginals.
- In the remotest corners of the island
- …Westlake did encounter via interviews
- ….the living indigenous communities.
Why were the Tasmanians so important for anthropology?
- The Tasmanians are believed to have been the most isolated race on earth.
- Their importance is their status as a cultural beginning.
- Because of their isolation and slow transformation
- …the Tasmanians ‘may have gone on little changed from early ages’ (pg 100)
What evidence do we have that the Tasmanian Aboriginals first human beings?
- Edward B. Tylor, ‘the father of anthropology’ after viewing an aboriginal stones
- …’the Taunton Scraper’ declared the Tasmanian Aboriginals as the ‘dawn of humanity.’
What was Westlake’s goal?
- Westlake wanted to rewrite history.
- In the process he finds and documents a living culture
- ...that had been declared extinct, Tasmanian Aboriginals.
- I knew NOTHING about the Aboriginals or Tasmania!
- Strong point: Westlake lets the frontier violence done to the Aborigines
- seep through his anthropological journey.
- …(Risdon Cove Massacre, The Black War in Tasmania)
- I have never read about the injustice done to this race. #Shameful
- All in all did discover Tasmania….following Westlake’s journey on a digital map.
- Warning: Be prepared to ‘push’ through the first 50% of the book.
- I had to…. at times Westlake’s life back in England
- …was not so interesting after his return from Tasmania.
- 1-8% – introduction to the man Ernest Westlake and his family and education
- 9-32% – described Westlake’s 1,5 year trip to Tasmania
- …Flinder Island and Cape Barren Island.
- 42-45% – Westlake’s return to England and his studies…and his death in 1922.
- 46-48% – Westlake’s Tasmanian stone collection and notes were now open to
- …Rhys Jones, University of Sydney earning his PhD in Tasmanian archeology (1966).
- 49- 57% The book gathers steam with the very interesting
- …escavations by R. Jones and his team (1965)
- Finally Dr. Rebe Taylor shines as she pulls all the diverse theories
- …together of past explorers into a ‘page turning’ last few pages!
- 57-100% – notes and other resource
- Rhys Jones the ‘cowboy archeologist’ once said:
- “Australian archaeological treasure is not gold or silver
- …it is time itself.”
- I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite a ‘few slow pages’.
- Dr. Rebe Taylor deserves
- …University of Southern Queensland History Book Award 2017
- Tasmania, the heart-shaped island, takes on a new meaning for me!
Dr. Rebe Taylor:
I visited new museum websites: