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Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile
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Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  391 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Squeezed between a vast ocean and the longest mountain range on earth, Chile is 2,600 miles long and never more than 110 miles wide--not a country that lends itself to maps, as Sara Wheeler discovered when she traveled alone from the top to the bottom, from the driest desert in the world to the sepulchral wastes of Antarctica. Eloquent, astute, nimble with history and deft ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published September 23rd 2009 by Modern Library (first published 1995)
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Velvetink
This is probably a 4 star but have only rated it 3 because I don't really know how to review it. I enjoyed it totally = Wheeler writes well and has combined a heck of a lot of history with documenting her travels through Chile. For someone about to go to Chile it would be invaluable (if a little dated) - I mean don't rely too much on her transport timetables since that would be changed in the years since she wrote it) although I get the feeling progress is slow due to the nature of the terrain. ...more
Michael Economy
Mar 22, 2010 Michael Economy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Colleen McCarthy
I really wanted to like this book. Some of it was a little interesting, but honestly i would have had a more enjoyable time reading the wikipedia article on Chile.


Example of this book:
I went to have dinner with my friends, we ate shellfish, it was ok.
The next moring i got a shower, it was cold.
The roads were muddy, I rode a bus.
Chile is beautiful.



This book has not begining middle or end, its a list, a poorly written list of things she did in Chile. I don't feel like she had an adventure, because
...more
Stephen
I read about a hundred pages of this and decided I wasn't very interested in finishing it. The set-up is enviable: an extensive, top-to-bottom, six-month-long tour of one of the countries I find most interesting. However, Wheeler's prose style isn't particularly alluring, her characterizations aren't very precise or captivating, and none of her adventures (at least in the first several chapters) are very interesting. I lost interest rather quickly.
Lucia
A woman traveling (mostly) solo in South America for 6 months. How could I possibly not love this book? I'm still trying to figure that out, as I've been looking forward to eating it up.

The author's account of traveling from the northern tip of Chile to the southern tip manages to be boring. How can that be? Everything about South America is fascinating to me. I haven't been to Chile, but the other parts of Latin America I have traveled in have been lively, passionate, gorgeous, heart-breaking,
...more
Jim
I enjoyed Travels in a Thin Country even though I had my misgivings about the author. She certainly knew how to write well, but I felt she went about her travels the wrong way. She landed in Santiago with a little black book full of names and addresses, but with very little deep understanding of Chile, its culture and literature. She picked up some as the trip moved from the Atacama Desert in the north to the colder south around Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and even Antarctica (where Chile lays ...more
Cheryl
So far I'm finding that it would be really helpful if I were British or more familiar with their slangs and idioms. First I have to figure out what Wheeler is saying, then I have to figure out the Chilean stuff she's talking about. (ETA: It's worse in the beginning, for some reason.)

I have learned, about 1/2 way through, quite a bit of history, geography, geology, and culture of Chile - and a fair bit about South America as well. Of course, everything she mentions is new to me - stupid provincia
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
The author combines history, political intrigue, stories of people she travels with or meets along the way, verbal snapshots of unbelievable landscape, and box after box of wine (mixed with Coke) into a travel book that has made Chile even more of a mystery to me NOW than when I started reading it.

The country stretches along South America and includes icebergs, rainforests, desert, mountains, island regions, wine country, with a diversity of old European colonials and (mostly extinct) native pe
...more
Gwenyth
I am giving up on this. Other reviews have commented that the author doesn't seem to absorb her surroundings and isn't likable. That's my impression as well. It seems as though she wouldn't be able to get from one place to another without the assistance of locals, expats, and other travelers; she repays them all with mildly patronizing character sketches.

It might be bearable if she stuck to poking fun at the "tack" she sees everywhere (manjar blanco, nescafé, peasant children clumsily named for
...more
Sara Foster
I bought this book a few months before I moved to Chile. Sara tours Chile from north to south and shares her experiences that she has with residents of various towns along the way. I found the book useful for learning a little about the geography, history, and spots of interest in Chile, but the author's style turned me off a lot. I almost felt like she felt her way of traveling was superior to other backpackers because she had a more authentic experience and did things off the beaten path. I al ...more
Thia
Dry. I would not have finished this book if it weren't for a strong interest in Chile since my son will be living there for two years. This book truely was mainly about her travels - how she traveled and who she traveled with and not enough about the country she traveled thru. I had to look up the areas she visited on the internet in order to get a visual due to a lack of description. Once I saw the beautiful country she was in I wondered why she wrote this book if she wasn't going to give it ju ...more
Linda
I felt deceived by the cover of this book which was of the famous spires in Torres De Pines. Sara spent one day in the park and devoted one page in her book to the part of Chile I was most interested in. She spent a lot of time in impoverished villages, and even two weeks living in slums of Santiago. It seems she was intent on being a traveler rather than a tourist. In her romp sponsored by the Chilean tourist board and the U.S. Navy and the help of a few well-placed friends in London she did se ...more
Kater Cheek
What I want from a travel book is to feel as if I have taken the journey along with the author. This book succeeds in this, and it also makes me dearly wish that I could take a similar journey. Well, maybe not similar. I'd happily go without the desert heat, getting scabies on damp mattresses, being stuck in Patagonia wondering if/when I'd be able to catch a ride on a boat, being lonely, and eating food of questionable quality. But the rest of it sounded awesome.

Wheeler travels from the north of
...more
Susan
This book is a 1st-person account of a British woman traveling through Chile. I got through about two chapters before having to return it to the library. The author is not a very likable person and I don't think it was interesting enough for me to finish. I liked the title, though.
Melody
I hesitate to give this book just two stars but it just didn't captivate me enough to finish. I did learn some interesting things about Chile's history and my memory was refreshed about Pinochet and Chile's diverse geography but her travel stories were not enough to hold my interest.
Julie
Read this on Andy's recommendation. I found it interesting because I was going to Chile-not sure I would have finished it otherwise. Single woman travels by herself from the top to the bottom of Chile. I was a little awed by her ability to make traveling friends along the way, and her seemingly endless supply of contacts (and money), friends of friends, and ability to get where she wants to go. There is also a lot about the political past and present of Chile, but she assumes that you already kn ...more
Naomi
I thoroughly enjoyed this, and must say, it has given me the travel bug. Chile is a country I know only a little about, beyond Pinochet and its location, so it was enlightening to read about its landscape, history, culture, etc. Wheeler wrote in an engaging manner, and came across as very likable, so it was easy to get swept up by her accounts of the scenery and individuals she came across. I admit, I am quite jealous that she was able to undertake such an expedition as one that spanned all of C ...more
Roberta
Very uneven writing style. I persited because i am interested in Chile.
Megan
Sometimes I don’t enjoy female authors because I find, like female comedians who fill their show with jobs about boobs and periods, they they let their gender cloud everything else. But Sara Wheeler hasn't done that here. This book is an excellent, entertaining and detailed account of her travels through a country I knew so little about before I turned a page. Wheeler is very skilled at combining travel anecdotes and personal experience, with history and facts. I loved not only her writing, but ...more
Bikki
I love to travel and I wanted to love this book. It just didn't happen. I would read a few pages and then put it down and when I love a book that is really hard for me to do...even non-fiction.

Sara Wheeler met a man from Chile and decided to travel there (she does go off on long adventures as part of her job) and see the whole country over a several month time span. The book was published in 1994 so her travels were likely 20+ years ago. There were definite moments in the reading I laughed at he
...more
Bridget
I was really excited to read this book since I studied in Chile but maybe my expectations were too high. The author includes a lot of good historical information but leaves some to be desired on the adventure/cultural part of traveling. I should have felt excited reading some of the things she did but I just didn't. There were also a lot of opportunities to explain certain situations in the cultural context but she didn't--she either didn't soak in a lot of culture/customs or didn't research eno ...more
Kathy
Fortunately, I was not expecting much from this book. Other readers said they could not relate to either the author's trip-style or personality; that Wheeler seemed shallow and demonstrated little immersion into the Chilean culture.

Well, I'm guessing I'm glad I'm not a Latter-day Birkenstock-er, because I thoroughly enjoyed the book! True, the author seemed to have 'letters of introduction' everywhere, and DID stay at several nice places - but, we should scorn her observations because of that? I
...more
Alethea
I was given this book just before my current my trip to Chile. I lived in the Vina Del Mar area for a year and a half during 2009-2010. Travels in a Thin Country captured Chile magnificently.

Written almost twenty years ago, this book manages to paint the nuances of the country so well that the armchair traveler gets a real sense of what it means to be in Chile. Wheeler's descriptions of the regional flavor, the society, the political landscape is spot on to this day.

Some reviewers seemed to re
...more
David
This was an odd book to rate, nevermind to read.

On one hand, I would give it a 3.5 for the information she presents about Chile - which I knew very little. She travels from one end to the other after the political changes after Pinochet. She does travel to some very remote places plus she meets many people from a variety of classes. Although some of the material is dated ( it was written in the early 1990s), it is interesting how she manages to snag so many rides to so many off-the-beaten trail
...more
Emma-Louise
It's nothing short of a miracle that I managed to finish this book.
The title, Travels in a Thin Country, would suggest a travelogue. As a genre, I'm a fan of travelogues, as I find it interesting to read about other people's travels. No two travellers' experiences are the same, but you can always identify with at least something. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case here. The author is unable to finish an anecdote without tacking on something about what happened at that place in 1862 or some oth
...more
David Roberts
The book I read to research this post was Chile: Travels In A Thin Country by Sara Wheeler which is an excellent book which I bought at a market stall. Sara traveled to Chile & traveled the length of the country including the Antarctic territories Chile claims and wrote this book about her experiences. Chile is famous for the Andes mountains but also the most northern part of the country is one of the hottest places in the world. It has the driest desert the Atacama. A bit further south they ...more
Meg
This book has been with me forever...not sure how it fell into my lap, but I took it to France a couple years ago...and forgot it at a friends house in Guidel. On a second time through---he handed the book to me and told me I forgot it. I had DEFINITELY forgotten it---I couldn't remember starting it at all...fastforward over four years later....and I decided it was time to either read or donate.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book...and hearing about the beginning of her travels. And I remember
...more
itpdx
This is a gem of a book about a fascinating country. Sara travels Chile from the northern desert to the Antarctic. The book is like getting letters (or maybe to be more current--reading a blog) from a very adventurous friend who can write. She stays in haciendas and isolated police stations. She gets to know the elite, the eccentric, and the salt-of-the-earth. She throws in tidbits of history, without getting academic. I read it with computer at hand to fill in the details that I was interested ...more
Nicole
I had picked up this book while in La Serena, Chile at the hostel my boyfriend and I were staying at. I had mixed emotions about my Chilean adventure and started reading this book to see a different perspective of the country. Initially, I didn't like the book for small reasons, I had felt that from the beginning her journey started off on a far too easy start and because she had used the word anyway and not in dialogue either. However I pushed through and I’m glad I did. I had let go of the fac ...more
Jill
I read this book shortly before and after my arrival in Chile and found it exciting only because I of my geographical proximity to many of the places mentioned. And my host family was very impressed that I knew what locos were (abalone) when we went out to eat so I have the author to thank for that. Actually, though, I would probably enjoy the book much more now, having a deeper understanding and appreciation for the country. (I always find that true too for guidebooks; they're more fun to read ...more
Carol J.
This exhilarating book tracks a criss-cross route, exploring as much of long skinny Chile as possible. Sara Wheeler travels from the deserts in the north, east through mountains, west to the sea and back until she reaches the frigid ice fields of Antarctica. Sara writes more of an adventure than a travelogue as she meets the people of Chile traveling by rental car, camping in the desert, hitching in the back of trucks with farm workers, staying in outlying villages in the high mountains, sharing ...more
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142353
Sara Wheeler was brought up in Bristol and studied Classics and Modern Languages at Brasenose College, University of Oxford. After writing about her travels on the Greek island of Euboea and in Chile, she was accepted by the US National Science Foundation as their first female writer-in-residence at the South Pole, and spent seven months in Antarctica.

In her resultant book Terra Incognita: Travels
...more
More about Sara Wheeler...
Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton The Magnetic North: Notes From The Arctic Circle Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard O My America!: Six Women and Their Second Acts in a New World

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