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3.9 out of 5 stars62
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 19 March 2001
I have no idea why I picked this up. Maybe it was the sticker offering a round world ticket from Bridge the World, maybe it was the title. It certainly wasn't the jacket which was atrocious and did no justice to the intelligent writing of Emily Barr. I loved it. Like many of the other reviewers I have also been travelling but you tend to forget your first impressions of countries. I found it refreshing to read a description of Vietnam which evoked the other side of the country. Yes it is amazing to look out of train windows and see paddy fields and workers in conical hats but you are also driven insane by the cacophony of scooter horns and nothing evokes travelling for me more than the smell of drains and rotting vegetables! I would have been happy with a book revolving around her development as a person, I thought the sub plot of murders was intriguing but it didn't need to all tie up so neatly at the end. I get the feeling Emily Barr felt she ought to do that for the book to be a novel rather than a travelogue and to be honest I prefer the latter. Tansy was a refreshing change to the angst ridden Bridget Jones heroine, she reminded me of Katya in What Katya Did Next...published a few years ago and resulting from a column in the Melbourne Age.
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on 13 November 2001
What struck me most about Backpack was how intelligent it was whilst being so entertaining, this book has a strong voice and makes you really identify with Tansy (despite how brilliantly screwed-up she is at the beginning of the book - very funny indeed). I know several people who have read it after or while they were travelling, who loved the travel aspects of it. It's not just travelogue, though, it's a page turningly good plot, with enough of an intelligent viewpoint on travellers, politics and human relationships to make it way more thought-provoking than the chick-lit style of the cover would have you believe.
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on 22 July 2001
Once I started reading this book, I just couldn't stop. It was THAT good! I just had to keep reading to find out what happened! At first, Tansy was a real cow, especially when she was at her mum's funeral and in the plane on the way to Asia. But through the course of the book, she grows as a person, especially when she has to choose between her old boyfriend and her new lover. The other thing that made me want to read to the end was the murders. It was obvious that it had to all come back to Tansy, but I only worked out who the murderer actually was about ten pages before she found out. It still came as a bit of a shock though! Anyway, I reckon everyone should read this book, but what else I have to say is it makes you feel really bored at home. I'm dying to just go away and travel the world now!
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on 6 April 2010
This is the first Emily Barr book I've read, so it took me a little while to get used to her style. It starts of jittery and jumpy, so isn't very easy to follow. But I think this is indicative of the character's mind and personality. It gets a easier to read. The characters grow and have many interesting dimensions.

The characters are realistic, they're interesting and there is an aray of personalities. It's very insightful to a living with an Alcoholic. This to be a very good and authentic description of what it's like having/living with a dysfunctional mother without getting too heavy about it. I guess some people will understand this aspect, if they don't it may be a little lost/weird for them.

The book reads very authentically and is very believable and you can really get into it (if you can bare with the jittery writing style!).

Love the characters. Love the description of emotions. Love the setting. The very articulate thoughts and descriptions. It's not only about romantic relationships, it's about 'travelling', about globalisation, culture, attitudes, family relations. It intelligently covers many topics, if only briefly on some.

Good fun read!
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on 9 April 2002
Fantastic book, clever and well written. i do have to agree the end was somewhat sickly sweet but don't we all love happy endings?! Laugh out loud funny in places but very very gripping throughout. i read it from start to finish in 5 hours!!
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on 18 April 2001
I loved this book! What a refreshing change! There are so many books which do the 'journey to being a better person' thing in some way or another but this was so different. I didn't like Tansy one little bit at the start of the book - she was pretentious, rude and full of herself. Her arrival in Vietnam was quite amusing because I thought 'ha, you deserve to be shocked' and I pretty much expected the remainder of the book to be variations on that theme. How wrong I was! She was a wonderfully well drawn character and Barr's skill at turning your feelings for her around was second to none. The pace was perfect - just as Tansy got settled in a place, in a situation, she would be relocated or there would be a twist. There was always that feeling of dread where the serial killer was concerned - you always knew that she would come up against him eventually and 'that knife' was always in the back of your mind.
I agree with previous reviews that the cover was dreadful. It told nothing of the wonderful book inside and is probably the only thing that let it down for me.
Can't wait for the next one so... Ms Barr... if you're out there please get writing!
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"Sometimes travelling alone can be murder".... Backpack by Emily Barr opens with Tansy burying her Mother, the end of a lifetime of care that frees her up to leave her job and go travelling. Young Tansy is not a likeable character as she jets off to Vietnam, her demons plague the prose - alcoholism, name it. To begin with she is a hugely self-referring character, critical of others, desultory about events, and just plain angry. It is, to be frank, a huge struggle to stick with her. But stick with her you should, because she takes her readers to all kinds of wonderful places on the backpacker trail, and introduces us to the obvious places like the Khao San Road in Bangkok, and amazing Lao and the Plain Jars (and what their purpose was, nobody knows) as well as China and Tibet. So, enjoy the read as she grapples with her sense of self in exotic surroundings, as the pathos builds with a rolling backstory of the murders of young women, all of whom bare a scary resemblance to her....
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on 2 April 2001
Backpack is a refeshing novel about a young woman's spiritual growth during an extended trip around South-East Asia.
It is easy to see Backpack as "The Beach" told from a woman's perspective, and such a comparison reflects favourably on Barr's book. Backpack's strength lies in the progression of the narrative voice. From an unpromising beginning as a spoilt, pretentious London party girl, the heroine, Tansy, becomes more introspective and looks perceptively at her own personality and that of the Western traveller generally. With a serial-killer sub plot which neatly externalises Tansy's anxieties, and a constant stream of small, but significant revelations, Backpack is compelling to read. Although lacking in genuine drama, Barr's novel nonetheless is a thought provoking and quietly confident debut, which displays some subtle writing.
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on 16 August 2001
I felt like a lot of readers that the central character, Tansy, is at first annoying, selfish, arrogant and just generally downright nasty, but that being said should all "heros" or "heroines" be likeable from the outset? Tansy develops as a person with the whole of S.E.Asia as a backdrop. The book can be seen as an easy introduction to the good and bad elements of that part of the world. The writer gives us Tansy's view of a place and manages to counterbalance it with the view of Juliette or Max or other members of the supporting cast. Throughout Tansy develops and grows, she becomes someone who, if we can't necessarly like, we can at least understand a little better.
If you like a page turner, then this is the one for you, I held back on the Tube platform to read the last few pages and I'm sure you will to.
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on 19 August 2011
The gritty, realistic themes that run through others of Emily Barr's books are also there in 'Backpack'. She creates a main character who you can really get a sense and 'whole picture' of, who - as other reviewers have said - becomes softer and more likeable as the book goes on. I also agree (with some others) that the murder storyline is less important than that of Tansy's own personal journey and transformation. I have read 'The Life You Want' and 'Plan B' by Emily Barr and, if you're looking for a good first book, 'The Life You Want' is unputdownable and fantastic. My bugbear with books such as this one are the awful covers, that make them look trashy - the cover of 'Backpack' does not give an accurate impression of what a great writer Barr is or of the content of the actual book. Enjoy!
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