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On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  120 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Legendary travel writer Paul Theroux drives the entire length of the US–Mexico border, then goes deep into the hinterland, on the back roads of Chiapas and Oaxaca, to uncover the rich, layered world behind today’s brutal headlines.

Paul Theroux has spent his life crisscrossing the globe in search of the histories and peoples that give life to the places they call home. Now,
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Hardcover, 448 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Steven Borowiec It's the same observant, narrative style. He has lost a bit of the snark he had in his earlier travel books and a lot more of this one is him…moreIt's the same observant, narrative style. He has lost a bit of the snark he had in his earlier travel books and a lot more of this one is him traveling with the perspective of age, applying all he has learned to this country that has both changed dramatically and remained the same.

I thought this work dragged in the third quarter, but the last section, where he spends time with Zapatistas in Chiapas, is magical. (less)

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Andrew Smith
Paul Theroux is often lauded as potentially the greatest travel writer of his generation and with this, his latest book, he shows that his power remains undiminished.

Mexico is a big country, something like eight times the size of the United Kingdom, and yet its population is only about twice that of the UK. It’s ethnically diverse with just over half of its people identifying themselves as mixed race. It’s rich in natural resources, but its wealth is unevenly distributed, with the top ten percent of
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Jessaka
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
A Migrant’s Prayer

“The journey towards you, Lord, is life. To set off is to die a little. To arrive is never to arrive until one is at rest with you. You, Lord, experienced migration. And then you, yourself became a migrant from heaven to earth. I was just a tourist.” ~~a note found in the pocket of an unidentified migrant’s pocket who had died in the desert.

Paul Theroux is driving to Mexico in order to learn if what Donald J. Trump had said about the Mexicans was true or
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Andrew Smith
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Paul Theroux is often lauded as potentially the greatest travel writer of his generation and with this, his latest book, he shows that his power remains undiminished.

Mexico is a big country, something like eight times the size of the United Kingdom, and yet its population is only about twice that of the UK. It’s ethnically diverse with just over half of its people identifying themselves as mixed race. It’s rich in natural resources, but its wealth is unevenly distributed, with the to
...more
Krista
Rating: 4 well-traveled stars

I was so glad to get a chance to read an eArc copy of Paul Theroux’s latest work about his extensive travels in Mexico the last few years. I value Theroux’s perspective on a nation that I have traveled in quite a bit during the last few decades. I read with sadness about the economic, political, and cartel forces that continue to make life in Mexico a hardscrabble and dangerous life for the poor and indigenous populations.

Theroux takes us on a wide-rang
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Jypsy
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
On The Plain Of Snakes is such a relevant read. Paul Theroux is one of my favorite travel writers, and his latest offering continues his profound observations and harsh truths. Obviously, there are serious and deadly problems along the United States and Mexico border. This book is sharp, insightful and disturbing. Theroux tells the truth, even when so many would rather not hear it. I highly recommend this book for anyone with even a slight intrest in the welfare of those who cross and protect th ...more
Rob Christopher
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't say this lightly, but in his seventy-sixth year, at least among his travel books Theroux has written his masterpiece. It's deeply compassionate, insightful, and amazingly timely. It's an extraordinarily rich journey. He's made me see Mexico in completely new ways and, as usual, sprinkled in bits of his own life and history that allow me to see his whole body of work differently.
Story❤
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Feeling old and unappreciated, Paul Theroux decides to undertake two journeys through Mexico: one along the contentious U.S./Mexico border, and then one into Mexico, traveling through Monterrey, to the central highlands on to Mexico City then to Oaxaca, and down south to Chiapas. Along the way, he talks to a wide variety of Mexicans: the destitute to the wealthy, those integrated into the Spanish language speaking mainstream, and those belonging to far more ancient indigenous cultures ...more
J.D. DeHart
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Paul Theroux writes beautifully and with vivid, provocative detail about a complicated place and people in this book.

It’s literary, reflective, geographic, and cultural. Just the kind of book to serve as the centerpiece for conversations about ethnography and society.

Theroux’s work comes not a minute too soon as we circle around questions of place and identity. It’s more than entertainment and more than literary — this book is a descriptive photograph that explores many nuances.
John H
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, nonfiction
I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

In On The Plain of Snakes, Paul Theroux travels to Mexico . He actually makes two journeys in this book, one along the entire length of the U.S./Mexico border, and then one into Mexico, travelling through Monterrey, Mexico City, Oaxaca, and all the way to Chiapas in the south. He makes both of these trips by car, in fact in his own car with Massachusetts plates, which does lead to tension at ti
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Mark Walker
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve travelled much of the world over the last forty years, thanks to Paul Theroux’s many books, which now number 56. I was especially eager to read this book since I’ve made the journey through Mexico several times with my wife in a car (VW bug) and a pickup truck, so I was familiar with some of the challenges and dangers, not to mention adventures the author would encounter.
The “Godfather of Travel Writing” follows his own critique for what makes a superior travel book, “not just a report of
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Sam Sattler
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Paul Theroux is that rare author whose books I can say directly affected me and my way of life. Theroux is the kind of traveler I try to be (to a much less adventurous degree), a traveler who enjoys straying off the beaten path to explore the places that tourists never get to see, someone who takes the time to meet a few of the locals, eat where they eat, and get a feel for what makes a community tick. Paul Theroux has done that all over the world, often placing himself into dangerous situations ...more
Ned Frederick
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it

Abundant horrible, hints of adorable. Theroux's own words describing the Mexican landscape as, "squalid, and lush and primal and majestic", pretty much nails more than the landscape. Maybe “primal” is the most relevant of the four, especially if you imagine it encompassing the cruel end of the primal spectrum. His actual narrative begins quite late, after a long and disturbing accounting of the cartels' long, brutal war along the southern side of the border... Some 32,000 missing souls, frequent
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William Koon
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Paul Theroux’s On the Plain of Snakes reminds one of his last major travel work Deep South. It sprawls. It repeats. It wanders.

Throughout he is on the verge of physical danger; he is shaken down frequently by the police and officials. His notes on the cartels and equally dangerous government corruption are spot on.

His disputation on the country is as wide and unfocused as the country he describes. Although he is writing a travel journal, he takes many time outs to discuss the people he meets.
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Cynthia
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well observed and interesting description of Mexico. Theroux is so good at observing the telling detail and letting people's stories come through. He interviews people at the border, gives a writing workshop in Mexico City, visits Oaxaca and Chiapas, even meeting Subcomandante Marcos in person. There's an amusing section about being a student in a Spanish class that captured the experience vividly - the mixture of boredom and anxiety, the irritation about having to answer personal questions from ...more
Kendra
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was a little wary of this book, having gotten thoroughly fed up with Theroux's misogyny and snobbishness in his earlier travel books and novels. And while those elements are certainly still present--he mentions a few women writers, but cites primarily men, and the male gaze is ever-present and often unpleasant--On the Plain of Snakes was nonetheless an interesting read. Theroux travels the Mexican-American border seeking out stories of border crossings, NAFTA's effects, the gangs that control ...more
Annarella
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Theroux is one of my favourite travel writer and I was more than happy when i got this ARC.
It's a realistic, engrossing and well written travelogue of his Mexican travel. Theroux leaves no space to exoticism or romantic view, his descriptions are realistic and talks about the harsh reality.
The style of writing is amazing as usual and this is an excellent book.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Peter L
“On the Plain of Snakes” has no harmless or or harmful ones

Yet, it has other oddities as “an old gringo”recounts his adventures along the US/Mexico border. Interesting as the author has written 37 or so mostly travel books as this one as well. A thumbs up although a little long winded.
James Easterson
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent journey into the heart of Mexico and all that it entails. All the kindness and dangers and corruption you’ll find there as I have experienced some of myself years ago. Thank you for speaking up for the indigenous people who suffer so much there in the shadows of neglect and persecution and poverty.
3GirlsMom
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
I love Paul Theroux. I’ve read almost his entire body of work. I waited a couple of months on my library’s hold list and rushed to check it out as soon as it became available. Sigh.... Not what I was looking for I’m afraid. Too much on (political) point right now. Maybe when the dust settles and the daily immigration news stories aren’t so raw, I can take it up again.
Nancy Dardarian
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book.
Diana
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book about a beautiful country. The author's humanity really shines throughout this fabulous adventure.
Jason
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it
liked it very much, but after 300 pages information overload!
Sandi
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great book and it was nota fast read but it it put n n Mexico because of the writing great read
Nicholas J
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Nov 11, 2019
David
rated it liked it
Oct 23, 2019
Marilyn
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Nov 09, 2019
Vanessa
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Oct 24, 2019
Will Jones
rated it it was amazing
Nov 13, 2019
Patrick Allaway
rated it it was amazing
Nov 09, 2019
Stephen Makin
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Oct 25, 2019
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best known as a ...more