Book Notes: 'The Great Railway Bazaar' by Paul Theroux

The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through AsiaThe Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia by Paul Theroux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I must admit that I enjoy travel novels. While not really fiction, there is typically a story with a beginning and an end that coincides with the departure and the arrival. Sometimes factual and historical, such as Sven Hedin's Silk Road, and at other times then-contemporary snapshots of a particular period in the recent past. This book includes the first chapter of Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, which covers the same journey as The Great Railway Bazaar but thirty years later. I must say that I am not a fan of such marketing of other books. A simple pointer to the new book would have been sufficient but now I am compelled to read this first chapter so the former book is properly "finished". I often keep my own journals when I travel, and I have several all waiting to be retyped or rediscovered. Sometimes I will keep a journal during the mundane times and write simply what happened. It is often banal. Theroux apparently wrote in the past tense as it happened, but it is his reflections and self-deprecating manner, especially towards the end of his journey, that captures how one must feel at the end of four months' train travel. I found this aspect, along with the historiographical capturing of the past viewed from the perspective of someone living in the mid-seventies, to be particularly engaging. As a consequence, this was an easy and enjoyable read and re-affirms my taste for good travel novels.

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