Did not like it, which is a shame because I used to be a huge fan of Bill Bryson and bought his books sight unseen (after reading Neither Here Nor TheDid not like it, which is a shame because I used to be a huge fan of Bill Bryson and bought his books sight unseen (after reading Neither Here Nor There). His latest reads more like a grumpy old man shaking his fist at those darned kids who are destroying his beloved adopted country with their new-fangled development projects. Hardly a chuckle was coaxed. Failed my 'drop it if the first 100 pages does not interest me' test....more
Travel memoirs are especially difficult to sell, more so than just a regular memThis review first appeared in my blog, The Malaysian Reader. Excerpts:
Travel memoirs are especially difficult to sell, more so than just a regular memoir. It needs a hook to capture one’s interest. If you’re a Hollywood celebrity or an explorer then the battle to grab attention is half won already. If your travel memoir has a specific agenda then that helps as well (for example, Nisah Haron’s Kembara Sastera Nisah Haron : United Kingdom & Dublin). Also helps if you’re an established author. But if you’re relatively unknown in the publishing world and you self-publish your adventures gallivanting across Europe, then the challenge to get noticed is just that tad more difficult. Izni Zahidi knows all about those challenges.
In her blog, she lists the frustrations she had to go through to get her book published before deciding to just publish the darn book herself (a quote from her blog post: “One [publisher] even told me that I can publish the book when I become famous”). Good thing she lives in an age when vanity publishing has been made so much easier and accessible. But is her book any good?
The 265-page book tells of her journey across Europe as a newlywed, living in four different countries within two years. Izni Zahidi had always wanted to travel abroad and if it wasn’t for the many obstacles she had to face she would have. Her opportunity came when she was offered a spot in a water resources management programme which enabled her to stay in France, Britain, Denmark, Hungary and take occasional sightseeing trips to locations nearby, including Egypt (which qualifies as ‘nearby’ when you’re in Europe, I suppose). Izni chronicles her two year journey abroad with infectious glee. Travelling abroad for the first time, she observes the people she meets and the places she visits with childlike innocence and wonder and if you’ve never been to Europe before you would probably share her wide eyed curiosity as well.
But if you have been to Europe, then The Longest Honeymoon brings nothing new to the table. There’s always the matter of the elusive ‘hook’. I can see why that one publisher facetiously asked Izni to wait until she was famous before offering them the opportunity to publish her manuscript. Outside of her friends and family, I would be hard pressed to think of anyone who would be interested to read it. The Longest Honeymoon is not a badly written travel memoir. Far from it. It is interesting, honest and occasionally amusing but it is a travel memoir of (let’s face it) an unknown Malaysian and it is difficult to ask anyone to fork out RM30 (or USD$12.89 at Amazon) in order to read a newlywed Malaysian woman experiences living and studying in Europe. It needs a hook. Where is the damn blasted hook to capture the potential reader’s interest? There’s always the ‘legal alien living abroad’ angle but other than that there’s nothing. Her travels, while exciting for her, was not entirely unique. Many Malaysians, married or single, man or woman, have been to Europe. It is not terra incognita for us. It is also unfortunate that Ms. Izni forgot to include any photos within the book. Not that it’s a requirement but seeing as how it’s a travel memoir it would have been nice to see some photos of her travels....more
(Disclosure: The author of this book is an online friend and there is a paragraphReviu di bawah ini mula disiarkan di blog saya, The Malaysian Reader
(Disclosure: The author of this book is an online friend and there is a paragraph within the book that alludes to me, though anonymously. Therefore claims of bias might be raised but are unfounded, I assure you)
If you are not familiar with Nisah Haron, she is an author with several novels and at least one children’s book to her credit. She also maintains a blog and it was in this blog that she first chronicled her travels to the UK and the city of Dublin, Ireland. Kembara Sastera (A Literary Travel) is a collection of those blog posts.
So yes, it is a blook. Ugh, I hate that word but it is a book derived from a weblog so it’s an accurate description. Why then should anyone bother to pay when it’s free online? Well for one thing, if you’re like me (and that would be awesome!) you would always prefer to have a hard copy in hand rather than reading from a screen no matter how convenient it may be. And as I have mentioned above, Nisah Haron is an established author so she can write. No ghostwriters needed here. It’s all her.
Travel books usually have a theme. Trekking cross-country on a bike, for example, or in search for the best street food in the world. Nisah Haron also had a specific aim in her travels and that is to discover the rich literary culture of the British and the Irish and the contributions they have made to world literature. All that in just under two weeks (she was on a budget). Beginning at Birmingham, she works her way north to Manchester, the Lake District, Edinburgh, across the Irish Sea to Dublin, London and back to Birmingham before flying back home. In between all that, she squeezes in visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and the bookworm paradise better known as the Hay Festival at Hay-on-Wye. True to her objective, Nisah Haron makes an effort to visit anything connected to books and the arts at every stop she makes. Don’t expect her to gush about the incredible shops selling incredible wares because this book has none of that. Unless its books. Then yeah, it has plenty of gushing over books and bookshops in Kembara Sastera.
The Hay Festival? Gush.
The James Joyce Center? Gush.
The Writer’s Museum, Edinburgh? Gush.
The Cambridge University Press? Gush.
Charing Cross Road, London? What do you think?
Kembara Sastera is also packed with photos of the places Nisah Haron visited (basically the same ones in her blog) which sure helps the reader appreciate the chronicles of her travels even more, and the photos are not just in the middle of the book like you’ll find in most books but just about on every page and in colour as well. Visual aids! Yay!
This book is simply a treasure for the Malaysian bookworm. Never before have I read a travel book in Malay that focuses solely on a particular nation’s literary treasures. Her travels also showed her and us the care and thought given by the Brits and the Irish to their authors and the ideas they brought forth. Over there men and women of letters are respected and honoured almost to the point of worship. Their homes are preserved, statues are erected in their honour, there are museums dedicated solely to authors and of course their books are kept in print even if demand is low and the author long dead. We Malaysians clearly have a long way to go.
Can’t afford to visit the book lover’s paradise that is the United Kingdom? Reading Kembara Sastera is the next best thing. And if you can afford to visit the UK, the book can act as a travel guide.
Here’s hoping there’ll be more travel books like Kembara Sastera in the near future either from Nisah Haron or others because there’s nothing a voracious reader likes more than to read a book about books. To us, it’s like porn but without the shame and guilt....more
Everything you needed to know on how to live in Paris like a Parisian. From which metro line goes where to the proper etiquette at a cafe (don't orderEverything you needed to know on how to live in Paris like a Parisian. From which metro line goes where to the proper etiquette at a cafe (don't order coffee and then sit a table that has been prepared for lunch) and how to rent an apartment in Paris without getting screwed. Lots of historical facts and anecdotes and while not as funny as his previous book, 1000 Years of Annoying the French, it is light hearted and interesting enough if you're looking for a good read on a rainy weekend. The opinions in the book were clearly Clarke's own but if I ever decide to visit Paris, I'll be sure to consult this book for guidance (well, actually I've been to Paris for one whole day in 2000 but that hardly counts). ...more
Funny, irreverent and makes you want to go and visit the food stalls that Hisham features in this book. He likes wine, though, and he never has a mealFunny, irreverent and makes you want to go and visit the food stalls that Hisham features in this book. He likes wine, though, and he never has a meal without at least something alcoholic. Even when he has satay, he drinks.
Fascinating at first (I love to read about obsessions especially if it's from a Brit) but it got way to obsessive towards the end. I guess because I'mFascinating at first (I love to read about obsessions especially if it's from a Brit) but it got way to obsessive towards the end. I guess because I'm not a map addict like the author and I quite love my satellite navigator while the author doesn't.
I love the chapter on bawdy street names, though. ...more
Realising he and most of his fellow Americans know very little of the early history of their country, Tony Horwitz goes travelling cross country (andRealising he and most of his fellow Americans know very little of the early history of their country, Tony Horwitz goes travelling cross country (and even overseas) to learn about the events between Columbus' arrival in the New World (incidentally, Columbus never set foot on continental America at all) and the arrival of the Puritans at Plymouth over two hundred years later. Like most famous events in this world, the author discovers that the story of the arrival of Europeans to the New World is shrouded in legends rather than facts. But the facts are still out there and this book has plenty. Recommended....more
Two Malaysian ladies go on a backpacking tour of Zambia. They survive the trip despite repeated attempts to kill them by assorted hippos, leopards, crTwo Malaysian ladies go on a backpacking tour of Zambia. They survive the trip despite repeated attempts to kill them by assorted hippos, leopards, crocodiles and bus drivers. It's a quick and fast read and Adeline Loh writes in a tongue in cheek mannner. ...more