Carmen's Reviews > The Places in Between

The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
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's review
Oct 30, 2008

it was ok
Recommended to Carmen by: Julie
Read in November, 2008 , read count: 1

It is what it is: a guy walks across Afghanistan. What do you think happens?
A) he encounters very poor and poorly educated tribal/feudal lords
B) he encounters hostile, backward, cruel teens and militia and former soldiers
C) he walks 25 miles a day with not much to describe: rural Afghanistan is rural for a reason
D) all of the above

D, of course D. Well, at one point he does get a dog. Now Rory can describe how Babur likes to sniff and pee and roll in snow.

I give Rory some credit for what he chooses to leave out (complaints--he is quite cheerful about what must have been bitter cold and about eating food that can't have been savory, about going hungry, and the lack of graciousness he encounters) and the genteel way he describes unsavory life realities (his dysentery, the lack of hygiene of his hosts). Toward the end of the book he bemoans that he hasn't gotten to understand the Hazara very well (one of the four ethnic groups in Afghanistan). I don't think that was a fair whine--his practice was to come to a village at dusk, stay one night, and head out in the morning, hardly conducive to sociological study. His goal was never to understand the Afghans by hanging with them--it was to walk across Afghanistan, a huge, formidable, mostly unfertile land, one of the world's poorest. Mission accomplished. But I find people more interesting than both goals and landscapes. I wish Rory did, too.
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03/07/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Rebecca I agree with all of the above. Good review.

message 2: by Lani (new) - rated it 1 star

Lani Couldn't say it better. So I linked to your review in mine. :-) Nice job.

Katrina Good grief, you practically got into my head on this one. I couldn't agree with you more.

Karen C. I haven't finished the book; I'm midway through and just wanted to see what other people thought of it. Sadly, I absolutely agree with you. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't crazy. Thank you. And what's with the awful drawings and the foot notes? The history is interesting but why not work it into the text rather than force us to pull out our magnifying glasses??

Carmen Oh, those footnotes! You are so right!

Karen wrote: "I haven't finished the book; I'm midway through and just wanted to see what other people thought of it. Sadly, I absolutely agree with you. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't crazy. Thank you. And..."

Trish I was looking through reviews of other people who had read this book and I was really suprised to see some people didn't like the book, which I consider a minor masterpiece. I spent some time looking at the reasons some readers didn't like it and can see what it is you find objectionable. I am intrigued by the point of view and can't help but wonder what you would think of the new book by bin Laden's first wife, his son, and Jean Sasson. Growing up bin Laden is apparently an quick read. If you can get your hands on a copy, I'd like to hear what you think. I haven't read it yet, but hope to soon. Anybody else on this link that wants to respond, please feel free.

Trish By the way, I finished the book Growing up bin Laden and reviewed it on my blog. Jean Sasson, one of the authors, wrote a response to my review. I think you'd find the book a fascinating in-depth look at an Arab family, no matter that the bin Ladens may not have been average in any way. Both the viewpoints of the wife and son of bin Laden are adequately represented, I thought.

Carmen Trish, I would probably enjoy the book since its focus is on a family, average or not--my inner sociologist would be delighted! Thanks for the recommendation, I may take you up on it.

PS. How wonderful to hear from Ms Sasson!

Trish I know! One always imagines multi-book authors as removed, somehow. She sounds so vulnerable, which is probably why I like her books so much. Actually, Growing Up bin Laden was reduced for promotion (50% off) at B&N--I guess it wasn't selling as well as the author had hoped...can pick it up for a good price in hardcover.

Arthur Rusdell-wilson Carmen, you are clearly American. How it shows! It is a tremendous, heroic book. It is counter- cultural and an important political commentary which could only be written after a journey demanding tremendous guts.

Carmen Hi Arthur! I agree his journey took courage. Can you tell me what about the book you enjoyed?

Joseph My sentiments also.

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