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To The Last City Paperback – 5 Jun 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (5 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099437236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099437239
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A distinguished travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron was named by the Times as one of the fifty greatest post-war writers. His books include Among the Russians, Behind the Wall, In Siberia and the New York Times bestseller Shadow of the Silk Road. He has won many awards.

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Review

"One of our most compelling contemporary novelists" (Independent)

"Colin Thubron's voice is unique: once heard, difficult to forget" (Anita Brookner)

"A tense, precarious achievement, brilliantly evoking a dangerous journey" (The Times)

"It is the sharpness of the topography that brings this book to life, the handling of the characters is equally impressive... Thubron has captured, with a vividness that few could match...the charms of a journey into the unknown" (Sunday Telegraph)

"An intriguing and worthwhile success" (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

'Colin Thubron's voice is unique: once heard, difficult to forget' Anita Brookner

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82 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Lucy Irvine on 15 July 2002
Format: Hardcover
Colin Thubron's last major oeuvre was In Siberia - highly acclaimed non-fiction about one of the bleakest places on earth. Everyone wondered where he'd go next - both literally and in literary terms. To The Last City is our answer.
In this frightening novel Thubron brings fictional characters to the furthest flung Inca ruins to be found along a precipitous trail amid 'cloud forests', which he has himself taken. The travel writing side is therefore all a Thubron reader would expect - flawless - but enriched in this book by the addition of new points of view. Each of his characters sees their journey and surroundings in their own way. A fat Belgian architect indulging the whim of his doll-like wife in embarking on this 'holiday', sees the mountains as mere 'geology'(an opinion degenerating to rocks viewed as 'turds' as the party's journey becomes distinctly troubling.) Whereas an English journalist longing to do some honest writing, craves to 'possess' the magnificence around him with words. A frail Spanish Deacon, carrying in his baggage all the guilt of a Conquistador's ancestor, seeks to apologise for the savage genocide of his forebears.And for the first time, Thubron speaks through the voice of a woman - Camilla, the journalist's forty-something wife who is at a pivotal stage in her own life. Thubron's lens on the landscape zooms in and out through these different eyes, with their individual self-consciousness convincingly in place, and his own narrative - lyrical and brutal as required - drives the reader steadily forward through the 'devouring and devoured' jungle, and through history.
Central among the themes woven liana-like through To The Last City are questions about the value of writing (does it replace memory?
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A party of five adventure tourists are on the arduous trek in the Peruvian Andes to the ruins at Vilcabamba, the last refuge and capital of the Incas before the conquistadores destroyed that city also. Two are English: Robert, who is a journalist, and his wife Camilla. Two are Belgian: Louis, an obese retired architect in his fifties, and his pretty elfin French-born wife Josiane, some thirty years younger than her husband; the fifth is Francisco, a young Spanish deacon. Camilla has come only because of her husband; Louis only because of his wife.

I found only Robert and Francisco interesting as characters. Robert compulsively tries to capture every experience in writing and is utterly frustrated by his inability to convey the extraordinary sights and atmosphere of scenery or to pin down his experiences (and there is some musing about the significance of the fact that the Incas had no writing at all). For the tortured, unworthy-feeling Francisco this journey is a penitential pilgrimage, an attempt to atone for what his Spanish ancestors had done to the Incas and their descendants.

We are given the thoughts of Robert, Camilla and Francisco; until shortly before the end of the book Louis is seen only from without: his character is easy to grasp from his behaviour. Josiane's is elusive to the reader (and particularly to Robert), and again only towards the end do we, as readers, very partly, enter her mind.

The story becomes tense and involving only about two-thirds of the way through the book. For long stretches along the trek they had meet no one, and the only challenge is the terrain - but then they encounter a group of hostile Indians. Except for Camilla, the Europeans are all in bad physical shape, and two of the party become feverish.
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By pamela jones on 17 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read many of Colin Thubron's books and have always enjoyed them. However this one is a very banal story set in Peru with very little detail about the country and a poor set of characters on a very boring journey which has no interesting beginning or end. I was very disappointed since it is not up to the author's usual standard.
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