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Questions of Travel

3.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,507 ratings  ·  421 reviews
A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2012)
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Hali Yes, I did... but it went no where. Like most of the book. So disappointed.…moreYes, I did... but it went no where. Like most of the book. So disappointed. (less)
Lee Palmer Yes, at first it goes hard, but after 30-40 pages I found it rather comfortable for reading. May be just because I like reading travel related…moreYes, at first it goes hard, but after 30-40 pages I found it rather comfortable for reading. May be just because I like reading travel related literature mostly, here's a good list of travel books by the way , I highly recommend to pay attention to Lost Art Of Reading Nature and Into the Wild. (less)

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One of the more disappointing books I've read this year, and why de Kretser won the Miles Franklin for this is anyone's guess.

While there were certainly pieces of beautiful prose in this book, on the whole it simply did not deliver. I found the two main characters to be passive, unsympathetic, un-engaging and two-dimensional. The story floundered around with what felt like very little structure and while the other characters seemed interesting, each of them just seemed to peter out to nothing,
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s taken me a while to read Questions of Travel – it’s one of those books that demands time and concentration. However it’s been a worthwhile investment; it’s an interesting, thought-provoking novel. It explores travel and tourism; work and leisure; and all the messiness of modern life, but it’s much richer than that. Almost every page triggers thought about all kinds of things, and the prose is a pleasure to read.

De Kretser explores the modern phenomenon of travel in all its complexity and
Kathy Davie
May 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, travel

A fictional tale of two completely different people with their completely different lives that finally, eventually, join towards the end. Briefly. The time span ranges from the 1960s to the 2000s.

My Take
I have absolutely no idea what the point of this story was. It's just pages and pages and pages of pointless background with pages and pages and pages of us following Laura's stream of consciousness as she picks up odd jobs here and there, slowly finding her niche in the working world. Ravi's
Marnie Masuda
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's not surprising that this book is garnering unmitigated critical praise. It's brave, thought-provoking, experimental and meticulously crafted. It's also not surprising that many readers aren't into the level of writer/reader reciprocity inherent in Questions of Travel. The narrative requires thought, attention, consideration. There's not an ounce of manipulative, lugubrious attachment, just masterful, idea-based storytelling. The title lets the reader in on exactly what they'll face: ...more
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a disappointment for me. I feel like a philistine for not understanding the point of this book. Sure, the lyrical prose was beautiful, but too often they came across as self-indulgent rambling. I get it; the author wants to recreate emotions around the subject of travel, migration and human movement at its very core, taking all that as a metaphor to life. But does it really need to span out to 400 plus pages?

The book follows the lives of two characters, who could not be more
Jennifer Stephens
May 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
I finished reading Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser this morning. Rarely have I been so eager to reach the end of a novel to get it over with. De Kretser exhausts over 500 pages attempting to make a profound statement about travel and I’d be lying if I said I understood what exactly she was trying to convey. It’s clear she also has something to say about the internet and the advance of technology but I can’t figure out that message either. To quote one of my favorite movie lines, “what ...more
The concept of Questions of Travel sounded very interesting, following two very different lives and the ideas of home, travelling and life experience. Despite of this, I found it rather difficult to get through this novel; I just couldn’t really get into the story. I could not connect with either character and it felt like there were so many themes crammed into the novel that at the end, it left no impression on my mind.

My complete review of the novel was originally posted at
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2016
A bold, clever and multi-faceted novel that is very difficult to summarise. It interleaves the stories of two main characters - Laura, an Australian who spends the first half of the book travelling and living in Europe and the second back in Sydney working for a company that makes travel guides, and Ravi, who leaves Sri Lanka and seeks asylum in Australia after his wife, a human rights campaigner and his son are murdered, ending up in Sydney working for the same company as Laura. These ...more
Robert Wechsler
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This, the third of de Kretser's four novels that I've read, doesn’t simply break rules; it plays with them, and the play was just as much fun for me as it must have been for her.

For example, it’s common to have two voices tell a story in alternating chapters, but de Kretser’s alternating chapters are in third person (it’s hard to imagine her protagonists having voices) and they don’t quite alternate. Time moves in skips and hops. Major events happen like small towns: blink and you’ll miss them.
Sharon Albanese
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
I can't remember when I last struggled so much to finish a book. I'm not sure how Michelle de Kretser did it, but she has managed to fill over 500 pages with words which say.......what, exactly? I still have no idea. This book has two main characters, both insipid and unsympathetic (particularly the highly irritating Laura) travelling but going nowhere. I actually started to have some hope for the book about one third of the way through when the parallels of these two became evident- one ...more
Dillwynia Peter
What a wasted opportunity!
From about the 50th page until the end I was in this fug. What is it about this book, I thought? Why do I think everything is almost but not quite right? As I pondered it materialised.

Imagine a nice watercolour: the scene is a rural European village. There are splashes of reds, yellows & blues, and a lot of paler shades. Now cover the scene with an opaque layer. You can still see the scene, but it loses the vibrancy of the original. You are still taken by the
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Questions of Travel is the fourth novel by Sri Lanka- born author, Michelle de Kretser. This novel follows, from childhood, events in the lives of two people: in Sydney, Laura Fraser, inspired by her Great-aunt Hester’s travel stories, uses a bequest from Hester to travel the world, eventually making a career in travel guide publishing; in Sri Lanka, Ravi Mendis’s life is turned upside down by devastating events, causing him to flee for his life. Ultimately, their paths cross, although this does ...more
Jun 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Read my full review:

Oh my good Lord this book is boring. It is very rare I have nothing good to say about a book. This is one of those books though. The writing was dry. There were WAY too many characters. The majority of characters were one dimensional. I forced myself to finish this book due to my commitment to review it. That is the only reason.

I read this book several weeks ago and have almost forgotten the entire book.
Nov 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I know that there are people who love this book, but I am not one of them. I think that a book that moves slowly should either contain lush description or be written in amazing prose. This book is neither. It contains some very interesting observations on the contrasts between cultures, and some finely honed descriptions, but they are buried in a rather long book about some uninteresting characters.
Laura Fraser is an artistic Australian, who lost her mother at a very early age and her father was cold and distinct towards her, as was her brother. On the other side of the world Ravi Mendes’ life was almost the complete opposite to Laura, but still struggles in life at times; currently he is determined to break into the computer science industry. Alternating from one character to the other, Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel explores why we are all influenced by travel.

Questions of
Venus Smurf
I honestly don't know quite what to make of this book. The writing style was clever and unique, and the entire time I was reading, I felt like I was being given glimpses into someone else's memories and thoughts. It was different, and I never quite felt like I had a grip on the book, but it's also the sort of thing that will put this book on some college lit professor's course list a few years from now. This is the type of book that leaves people thinking about it for weeks afterwards, and the ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘What are you doing here? This was travel, marvellous and sad.’

There are two people’s stories in this novel: two displaced people who’ve travelled in order to find, or to escape. Laura Fraser, freshly moneyed thanks to a legacy, leaves Australia behind in order to see the world. Laura ends up in London where she becomes a house-sitter and then works as a travel writer. Laura is an outsider with few attachments. Ravi Mendes leaves his Sri Lankan homeland in fear of his life, and ends up applying
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a gorgeous novel, with some wonderful, insightful writing and beautiful descriptions, although I found it at times a difficult book to read. It intertwines the stories of two very different characters, Laura from Sydney who has grown up without a mother and a distant father and Ravi who despite growing up fatherless and in poverty, receives a good education and becomes a maths lecturer and early website designer. Each must travel to find out who they are and what they want from life. ...more
David Finch-Quadrio
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
QUESTIONS OF TRAVEL by Michelle De Kretser. This novel won the 2013 Miles Franklin Award and the Prime Minister's Prize for fiction. It tells the story of Laura, a lusty, frumpy and listless Australian travel writer who and Ravi a Sri Lankan who comes to Australia after conflict in his homeland destroys his family. Praise has been heaped on this book but undeservedly. De Kretser writes the occasional interesting phrase or description but this book is overlong, self-indulgent and ultimately ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Great title, not only are there questions of travel, but questions about where this story took place, where it would go, and what it would contribute.

While flattered to be invited to review this book from Little Brown and Company, I regretfully say that this book was full of questions.

Perhaps this is a little unfair after reading 4 pages, but I could not turn another page. I was so confused about whose voice was narrating the book and what it was talking about. There seemed to be a conflict of
This was a slow starter, but it was quite interesting. I enjoyed following Laura’s story and her travels. This started in the 1970s and went through until the mid 2000s and I liked reading of significant world events through the lives of the characters.

I know this won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2013 (and was nominated for others), but as I often find with literary fiction, it appears that the judges saw something I didn’t. It was an interesting story, and there are some nice
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If books won prizes for ambition alone, Michelle de Kretser's Questions of Travel should win every gong going. This is a "widescreen" novel that explores the interconnectedness of our lives brought about by the advent of the internet, cheap travel and globalisation.

To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.
The first book I have read by Michelle de Kretser. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had expected to do. I found the movement in each chapter between the two main characters (a woman born in Australia, a man born in Sri Lanka) rather disjointed, and many of the subsidiary characters weren't filled in enough for me to remember who they were when one of them bobbed up after a hundred pages or so.

I thought the best thing about the book was the portrayal of Laura, the central female character.
Lyn Elliott
De Kretser uses her two main characters to explore the many meanings of 'travel' in the late twentieth and early twentieth centuries, including tourism, migration both voluntary and forced, and virtual travel through the internet and some of the questions of identity that arise through these different forms of 'travel'.

An unhappy, unsettled Sydney woman, Laura Fraser, sets out from home in her twenties, freed from the family that didn't want her by an unexpected legacy. For years she travels
Sam Still Reading
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of beautiful prose
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: ARC from publisher - thank you
From the moment I saw the cover of this book, I was intrigued – a distant ocean, land far away, a single bird…it just all seemed so peaceful. Like a holiday. Questions of Travel certainly covers a lot of journeys and travel, but not all of them for holiday purposes.

The novel opens with short, sharp chapters alternating between the childhoods of the two main characters, Laura and Ravi. Laura is an average Australian girl; Ravi is from Sri Lanka. Laura has a desire to paint, while Ravi chooses
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the threads that winds itself through Questions of Travel is the notion of consumerism and consumption. The way we devour and demand experiences through entitlement is one of the themes offered to muse over, however it's clear that not everyone who read the book has had this same insight. I've had a quick read over some of the other reviews by readers and I'm struck by how many of these comments directly feed into this theme of consumption, despite people's lack of awareness of this. This ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
I've just finished reading 'Questions of Travel' and it has been a labour, at times I was not interested in picking the book back up... my commute on the train kept me reading but I was not riveted and it was slow paced reading... looking out the window at scenery before glancing back to the book struggling with where it was going with the two not well developed main characters, and flitting from one short chapter to another alternately for these two characters. There were moments of amazing ...more
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! I was transported on some amazing journeys and became involved the the ups and downs and generally messiness of the lives of the 2 main characters. It is a testament to the characterisations that I am missing both Laura and Ravi. I loved the bluntness and yet almost poetic prose. It made for a challenging read at times but I found if I just went with the flow I was carried along with the beautiful writing. I currently live in Sydney, have lived in London and have ...more
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
I wasn't quite sure of the point of the book, it drifted all over the place and then finished off its main characters (we're left to assume) at the end of the book! I liked some of the writing, enjoyed some unusual turns of phrase and quite enjoyed the second half of the book...up to a point. Didn't much like the main characters, maybe we weren't supposed to but overall a little disppointing.
Friederike Knabe
Jun 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: australian-lit, asia
Why do people travel? Because they are curious about other places and other people, or enjoy to be tourists looking for excitement far from home... Others leave their home because they are forced to leave for any number of reasons... There will be many answers to this question. Michelle de Kretser, an award winning Sri Lankan author living in Australia, delves below the surface of traveling and travelers in her novel, Questions of Travel, digging into a wide range of issues and scenarios: from ...more
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Michelle de Kretser is an Australian novelist who was born in Sri Lanka but moved to Australia when she was 14.

She was educated in Melbourne and Paris, and published her first novel, 'The Rose Grower' in 1999. Her second novel, published in 2003, 'The Hamilton Case' was winner of the Tasmania Pacific Prize, the Encore Award (UK) and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Southeast Asia and Pacific). 'The
“the twentieth century was best represented by an unwilling traveler. “I mean, think of the millions of soldiers mobilized by wars. And all the people made homeless because of them. Now the world is full of people who don’t belong where they end up and long for the places where they did.” 5 likes
“In the pub in Clerkenwell, it tickled Englishmen to ask, “Do you know the difference between Australia and yoghurt?” Or rather: Orstraylia and yogurt. They were hilarious, spluttering into their warm beer. There was another kind of man, whose methods were more refined. At parties, he would stand between Laura and the door asking, Which is your favorite Tarkovsky? Have you read Discipline and Punish? Whom do you rate more highly, Borges or Kundera? At confessional moments, angry names broke from him: Bellow, Roth. His brow might as well have been stamped “Frightened Early & Often.” Laura dressed him in a clean shirt rolled up at the elbows and placed him behind a desk in a room with no shadows. The luckless, passing one by one before him, wept hot, useless tears over their cancelled lives: they had mispronounced Coetzee or chosen Warhol over Duchamp.” 1 likes
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