Garrett's Reviews > The Sheltering Sky

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
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Dec 04, 07

Recommended for: people interested in any sort of travel writing
Read in January, 2002

This one reminds me much of both Greene and Maugham. The travelers in the Sheltering Sky are experienced, for sure, dedicated to really getting to know a place, hell-bent (literally) on getting the full experience, of living instead of touring. The swagger and confidence they have, the invincibility they feel, their sense of entitlement ultimately destroys them all in one way or another.
Bowles does an amazing job of describing the landscape (sub-Saharan Africa after WWII), the sickness of one of his characters, the desire of another, the jadedness, panic, and eventual loss of all identity of a third.
I've heard it said that The Sheltering Sky is less about foreigners in a foreign country and more about the natives of a foreign country. I'm not so sure I agree, but there is certainly something that sets it apart from novels like The Sun Also Rises. I think The Sheltering Sky is also an incredible psychological feat, an amazing character study (or are they caricatures? I think not, they are much more than that, but a case could be made--has, in fact, by a friend who didn't enjoy the novel).
Ultimately the book left me with an incredibly hollow feeling, a profound sadness that stuck with me for several days. This may sound like an unpleasant side effect to some people, but when a book is able to manipulate me that much, I can't help but consider it to be great.
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Garrett This one reminds me much of both Greene and Maugham. The travelers in the Sheltering Sky are experienced, for sure, dedicated to really getting to know a place, hell-bent (literally) on getting the full experience, of living instead of touring. The swagger and confidence they have, the invincibility they feel, their sense of entitlement ultimately destroys them all in one way or another.
Bowles does an amazing job of describing the landscape (sub-Saharan Africa after WWII), the sickness of one of his characters, the desire of another, the jadedness, panic, and eventual loss of all identity of a third.
I've heard it said that The Sheltering Sky is less about foreigners in a foreign country and more about the natives of a foreign country. I'm not so sure I agree, but there is certainly something that sets it apart from novels like The Sun Also Rises. I think The Sheltering Sky is also an incredible psychological feat, an amazing character study (or are they caricatures? I think not, they are much more than that, but a case could be made--has, in fact, by a friend who didn't enjoy the novel).
Ultimately the book left me with an incredibly hollow feeling, a profound sadness that stuck with me for several days. This may sound like an unpleasant side effect to some people, but when a book is able to manipulate me that much, I can't help but consider it to be great.


Catherine Yes, to the similar feelings between Bowels and Maugham. I read Maugham's "the moon and sixpence" immediately fowling “sheltering sky.” I was in a foreign country with little to select in terms of books in English, so I pick up both with little expectation. After I read the second I remember thinking, what is going on! How could I find these two pieces in the middle of a somewhat isolated South American dessert? Both were an unexpected delight, especially Sheltering Sky. Anyway, felt the need to share. Very nice review :)


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