Corrie's Reviews > The Songlines

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
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's review
May 12, 2009

really liked it
Read in May, 2009

This was a great book, but it took me forever to read. The first half is basically a travelogue of Bruce's experience following around Arcady, a Russian-Australian whose job is to help design a railroad route through the bush that won't destroy any Australian Aboriginal sacred dreaming sites. This is a huge job, because it includes tracking down the Aboriginal "owners" of each of the tracks of land that the railroad will invade, and convincing them to discuss dreaming sites, a secretive topic. These encounters are really interesting, but then Bruce departs from Arcady for the majority of the second half of the book in order to work on his writing, which means that we get to read through all his old journal notes. These notes, while interesting, often don't have any logical path, so it was a bit hard to get through. They mostly follow his experiences with other groups of nomads, hunter/gatherers, and ostracized/misunderstood races throughout the world. But, there were also a lot of ideas about the nature of man, interspersed with quotations from famous philosophers, anthropologists, social psychologists, naturalists, biologists, etc.

Although I'm pretty sure I would have preferred a more solid plot, with "memories," "flashbacks" and philosophical discussions integrated into the story line instead of Bruce's views and memories randomly thrown in, if I had been anticipating it, I don't think it would have bothered me as much. For a travelogue, it was extremely informative and thought-provoking.

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