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Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge
 
 

Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge [Kindle Edition]

John Gimlette
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Review

`A completely fascinating book. It opens up a forgotten corner of the world with tremendous flair and shrewd observation'
--William Boyd

`Wild Coast is funny, intelligent, revelatory' --Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland

`Great for those looking to explore a South America far from the well-trodden Gringo trail.' --Real Travel

`A fascinating journey... Gimlette's extensive research has given him access to an intoxicating level of detail' --Wanderlust

`Gimlette brings history to life. He artfully merges assiduous research with a storyteller's gift' --Oliver Balch, Guardian

'An evocative writer' --Daily Mail

'A talented writer... he conveys the region's horror stories with a healthy dose of humour, knowledge, sincerity and poetry.' --Traveller

'Remarkable. Gimlette's descriptions of landscapes are often hauntingly beautiful, his sense of humour engagingly dead-pan' --Spectator

'Gimlette has an innate ability to bring scenes alive on the page... well written, insightful and gripping' --Geographical

'The best kind of travel writing: tough-minded and humorous, but above all thoughtful.' --Ian Thomson

`A fascinating tale of rebels and remote jungle, snakes and slavery. Perfect armchair adventure.' --Tom Robbins, FT

`A superb traveler's tale in which yesterday has far more heft than the fleeting happenings of today.' --Wall Street Journal

'A spirited historical, political and personal travelogue guaranteed to arouse the adventurous reader's wanderlust' --New York Times

Book Description

In this compelling and elegant travel memoir, John Gimlette returns to Guyana, the Wild Coast in South America, to discover his ancestral colonial history - one of brutal, cruel and often uncomfortable truths

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More About the Author

John Gimlette was born in 1963. At seventeen, he crossed the Soviet Union by train and has since travelled to over 60 countries. In 1982, on the eve of the Falklands War, he was working on an estancia in Northern Argentina, branding cattle and planting grass. As hostilities got under way, he crossed the border into Paraguay, the beginning of a fascination that's lasted many years. He returned to England via Bolivia and Chile to read law at Cambridge.

In 1997, John won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize competition. The following year he won the Wanderlust Travel Writing competition. His first book was 'At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig; Travels in Paraguay', which was published in New York, London and Milan. His second book, 'Theatre of Fish', about his travels in Newfoundland and Labrador, was published in 2005. In it, John sets off after his great-grandfather, Dr Eliot Curwen, up the Labradorian coast. Curwen, who arrived here in 1893, was sent as a medical missionary, to look after Labrador's migratory fishermen and Eskimos. Using Curwen's remarkable photographs and journals, John finds himself back among the people who were his ancestor's patients.

Both The Pig and The Fish were nominated by The New York Times amongst its 'Books of the Year'. Both also formed the subject-matter of lectures that John gave to the Royal Geographical Society, in London and in the provinces. In addition, he's also appeared at both the Hay and Edinburgh literary festivals, together with several others.

In 'Panther Soup' (published in Spring 2008), John travels with an American war veteran, back along the campaign trail of 1944-45: Marseille, Alsace, Lorraine, Swabia, Bavaria and the Austrian Tyrol. For the American, it is the first time he has been back in 60 years, and along the way they meet the survivors of this conflict: resistance fighters, children, draft-dodgers, German veterans, Austrian aristocrats, a spy and a mothy Tyrolean militia.

John's latest book is 'Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge'. It was featured on the BBC Radio 4's 'Excess Baggage', and again John will be talking about the book at the literary festivals at, among others, Hay, Edinburgh, and Oxford.

Writing is very much in John's blood. On his mother's side, both Eliot Curwen and Dr Cecil Curwen (John's grandfather) were great amateur archaeologists - the last of their kind - and their written work was widely admired. On the other side, the Gimlettes were military surgeons, deployed around Asia. George Gimlette's history of the Nepali royal family, published in the 1890's, is still printed in India today. John D Gimlette's 'Malay Poisons and Charm Cures' (1915) is also still in print, in Singapore, the unsurpassed textbook for all poisoners.

John is also a regular contributor of travel features to the national press, in particular the Telegraph, Times and Guardian, and to specialist travel titles, including the Condé Nast Traveller and Wanderlust. His travel photographs have appeared in the Traveller, Telegraph, Independent, Wanderlust and Geographical.

John lives in London, England, where he continues to practice as a barrister.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More like a novel than a travel book 3 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback
A fascinating journey through South America's Wild Coast. Seldom explored, this is a land of forests and rivers where nine tenths of the inhabitants live in a narrow strip along the coast. As he travels from Guyana (formerly British Guyana, through Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana) to French Guyana, Gimlette introduces us to a rich cast of characters, past and present. We meet outlaws, Amerindian hunters, runaway slaves and Marxist dictators. We retrace the progress of a Georgian slave revolt, discover a French penal colony, and revisit Jonestown where in 1978 over 900 Americans committed suicide. Gimlette's writing is meticulously researched, fluent and rich in detail. Often Wild Coast reads more like a novel than a travel/history book. My favourite parts are where Gimlette allows himself to become part of the story he tells, often with hilarious results.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gimlette's Back by Jove 12 Mar 2011
By Miran Ali VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
A gripping travelogue of a part of the world most people know very little about. The book starts with British Guyana, followed by Suriname and French Guiana. I would rank this right alongside Gimlette's debut, The Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, a similar book about Paraguay.

Thoroughly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 11 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a big fan of Gimlette's book on Paraguay, At The Tomb Of The Inflatable Pig: Travels through Paraguay, I came to Wild Coast expecting something hugely enjoyable, moving, eye-opening and memorable. And that's exactly what you get with Wild Coast.

Gimlette's route takes him through what must be a contender for the wildest and strangest region on earth - the Guianas. Most of it is dense jungle - what some might call a fabulously rich ecosystem, but I would just find terrifying. It has it all - anacondas, piranhas, spiders, jaguars that regularly eat people, and that's before you get started on the disgusting and aggressive insect life. For the less squeamish, there is plenty to shock in the people Gimlette meets and the story of the region he tells. Can any other one place claim to have inspired such craziness and extremity, from the Raleigh-inspired search for the mythical city of gold, through murderous slaves, planters and dictators to the Jonestown massacre, with France's notorious Devil's Island penal colony on the way.

Gimlette's grasp of the history is masterful, but it is also cleverly woven into the story of his modern-day journey and the people he meets, all of whom he seems to have charmed into giving away something interesting about themselves and their relationship to the place.

Sometimes travelling in the footsteps of Evelyn Waugh's 1930s trip (which inspired A Handful of Dust (Penguin Modern Classics), the book that means you can never read Dickens again), Gimlette seems almost always unperturbed by the tarantulas - `like a large hairy hand', and all the other beasts, as well as by some of the frankly terrifying people he meets. A brave journey, superbly told - the kind of book you don't want to end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Wild Coast" what a cracking read. 16 Mar 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
"Wild Coast" what a cracking read, difficult to put down, almost caused a domestic." Are you listening to what I am saying, can you take your head out of that book for two minutes" best advice I can give read it on your own and be prepared to stay up all night.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Gimlette does it again 11 Nov 2011
By KK
Format:Paperback
Fans of Gimlette's trademark blend of dark subject-matter, upbeat adventure, witty commentary, and serious scholarship - rejoice. Wild Coast is packed with all the thrills of his travel writing.

The subject-matter is of course the destination - one of the world's most inaccessible and mysterious regions. And it is dark because, despite that delightful Gimlettian lightness of tone, the history of the Guyanas is full of abuse and extravagance, a veritable theatre of the absurd - set in impassable jungle. The chapter on 'Jonestown', the Jim Jones commune where over 900 people committed mass suicide in the 1970s, is truly a journey into the heart of darkness. And that is just the beginning. Gimlette, as ever, steers clear of sensationalism, even when dealing with extreme cruelty; instead, he shines a humanist light on human folly and illusion.

As with 'The Tomb of the Inflatable Pig', his book on Paraguay, Gimlette is masterful at weaving day-to-day adventures through a comically inhospitable landscape with forays into the past where the real damage is done. His characters - as ever - are so vivid, they're practically jumping off the page.

This is essential reading for all interested in South America, colonial history, and how our personal demons are played out against nature and each other.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling & Enjoyable 2 Nov 2011
Format:Paperback
Travel books rarely make compelling reading. They are often long on gratuitous detail and short on direction to the real soul of the area that is their subject. History is often provided without warmth and the local population only introduced sparingly. THE WILD COAST by JOHN GIMLETTE is a complete exception to all of this. It is a compelling and enjoyable read and I would recommend it not only to those with an interest in the area collectively known as the Guianas, but equally to those who have never visited or are likely to visit this amazing corner of the world. The author`s descriptions, without over-embellishment, of the amazing variety of flora and fauna he encountered are enough to transport the reader into a strange alien hinterland.
Gimlette has the knack of bringing to life a vast array of personalities, both current and historical, major and minor, so that, no matter how strange and outlandish their way of life, they remain credible human beings. The research and scholarship that Gimlette undertook shines out of every page. In this respect I would draw the prospective reader's attention to just two of the occasions when Guiana became almost a obsession with the world's press.
In a section headed humorously, As the Age of Sugar Waned, the Rule of the Dentists Began..., he begins to discuss the rule of a married couple Cheddi and Janet Jagan. They were, of course, both dentists; he was of Indian stock and she was Jewish. They were both communists and the idea that people of their political persuasion should be ruling any country in South America, however unusual and backward, sent the western world at the time, into a flat spin.
The second occasion was far more tragic and involved an American cult leader who styled himself the Rev Jim Jones.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in years
No one writes like John Gimlette and if he carries on this way, he'll get a Nobel Prize and a Pulitzer. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Geoffrey Rex Hill
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully wild book
A well written book about a part of the world that receives little attention from the rest of the world. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mad Geographer
5.0 out of 5 stars Clearing the Jungle
The author's subject is the Guyanas - "a land comprising three different countries, three different cultures, three official languages, three currencies, myriad religions. Read more
Published 11 months ago by G. M. Sinstadt
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius
I'm not going to write too much here as it is difficult to put into words how fantastic this book is - I just wish the author would write more books as I have loved each and every... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mr Nicholas J Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive overview of the Guyanas
It makes good reading, is up to date and relevant. I found the book even more engaging as I know a few of the characters in the book. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr Noel Denney
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
It gives sufficient information on this isolated part of South America. It is a sapid, well written book. Reccomended reading, if in your travel plans.
Published 14 months ago by Nikolas
3.0 out of 5 stars Wild humanity rather than wild beauty or nature
John Gimlette experiences Guyana, Surinam and Guyane from a historian's perspective rather than that of a naturalist. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Pjhale
5.0 out of 5 stars The Guianas uncovered
`Wild Coast' is a remarkable tour de force. The writing is evocative, and the author shows a real empathy with the many and sometimes strange people that he meets along his... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars A history and geography lesson
Extraordinarily detailed research has gone into this book. And Mr Gimlette is really prepared to get his feet dirty finding out all about these three countries. Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2012 by pscoptera
4.0 out of 5 stars A CULTURED READ
I have travelled extensively in South America, however, these 3 countires on the 'wild coast' have so far escaped my attention. Read more
Published on 26 Sep 2011 by global gilroy
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