Rob Maynard's Reviews > The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
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's review
Oct 12, 2011

it was amazing
Read in October, 2011

So much literature has passed me by unread that I am just discovering books now that everyone(including Hollywood) discovered long ago. I'm mainly aware of Theroux from travel pieces of his published in Outside Magazine in the last twenty years or so. I want to read one of his non-fiction books, but stumbled across a first edition hardback copy of Mosquito Coast at my local library branch and decided to dive in. Much to my surprise the family drama/nightmare/jungle story of the Fox Family is a page turning, gut-wrenching potboiler of a book that takes in everything from the rot of the American Dream, technology, colonial rule, Jungle conditions and the role of The Church among others. It's easy to see why Peter Weir wanted to make a movie of it.

The relationship between the Dad, Allie Fox, and his oldest son Charlie and that of Charlie to younger brother Jerry ring absolutely true in the context of the Father-Son-Brother dynamic. The loyal jungle boat captain and native retainer Mr. Haddy is one of the most well crafted characters of his type in my experience as a reader. He seems a buffoon at the beginning of the book and by the time the whole twisted tale is told he is triumphant. Theroux writes his character in pidgin Caribbean dialect that seems plausible once you've read over it a few times. Writing in dialect is daring, and a true test of a real ear in an author, IMHO.

The female characters don't carry much of the action and the author delves very little into their interior lives. It's enough that the mother tries her best make her kids think everything is going to be fine. But the male relationships and the alpha male father trip that Allie Fox is on make this novel ring true to any son who ever thought his old man was crazy, and in the context of the story, terrifying at times.

Allie Fox to me is an American original in the same line as Nick Caraway or Dean Moriarty and Hunter Thompson, full of bitter ruminations about the rot beneath the veneer of American Society and on the road to madness from dealing with the inherent contradictions we all run across each day across this great land. Things like Prohibition, the Church, the Truth, Politics, Career. And yes, I'm aware Hunter Thompson was a real person, and not just the recurring characters in his own books.

So, read The Mosquito Coasts if you haven't. The turn of events and characters and denouements throughout the book will keep you until the finish. I'm going to check out the movie, which I've never seen. I don't see Harrison Ford as Allie, but I'll give it a watch.

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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim I've not had a desire to read the book because i saw the movie first. It was hyped as a modern-day Megalomaniac Swiss Family Robinison and it was okay for what it was, not having read the book. It sounds like i lost out, not reading the book.

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