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Alexander Jacoby (Yokohama, Japan)

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The Reef (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
The Reef (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
by Edith Wharton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated Wharton, 14 July 2009
This excellent book is less famous than Wharton's masterpieces The Age of Innocence and The Custom of the Country, but it's no less intense than the former and no less elegantly plotted than the latter. In the opening chapters, one awkward misunderstanding leads the deeply flawed hero to make a tragic error, and the trap is set. The story then unfolds with a brooding power, as Wharton traces the interrelations of four characters bound together in a knot of their own making. The book is masterly in construction and beautifully written, with the dark personal drama offset by lyrical descriptions of rural France.

One caveat: the particular predicament which the book describes is determined by the social mores of its time: the action which initiates the drama would not have the same terrible impact in more liberal times. This may alienate some readers, but it shouldn't. Any reader capable of transposing him or herself into the mindset of the early twentieth century should be haunted by the power of one of Wharton's most gripping studies of emotion.

Lonely Planet Thailand
Lonely Planet Thailand
by Joe Cummings
Edition: Paperback

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful but flawed, 4 Jan. 2005
This review is from: Lonely Planet Thailand (Paperback)
I usually go with Lonely Planet rather than the Rough Guide since I tend to feel it has the edge on accuracy. But the Thailand guide is a little disappointing. The Bangkok and Chiang Mai chapters are fine and full of useful and correct information. But chapters covering the smaller provincial towns - Phrae, Nan, Lampang - are less reliable. Particularly, the maps just don't look like the towns, sometimes I've ended up walking for the best part of an hour to cover a distance that looked like a kilometre according to the scale on the map. Also, lots of important streets are merely drawn, not named on the maps. The combination of these two failings means you can get lost very easily.
I'm not going to complain, like a previous reviewer, that the book assumes you can speak and read Thai. The authors always warn you if a particular restaurant has no English menu or sign, for instance, so if you can't read the language, you know to choose another restaurant. I do think, though, that the authors should take into account that prices tend to be much higher for lots of commodities - taxis and tuk-tuks, above all - if you happen to be a non-Thai-speaking foreigner. I've set out a couple of times on a journey which Lonely Planet has assured me will cost 30 baht by public sawngthaew (pick-up truck), only to arrive at the bus stop as the only customer and find drivers insisting that I charter the vehicle for 500 baht. You would need good spoken Thai and good haggling skills to avoid these sort of situations. Of course if you travel to a country where you don't know the language things are bound to be difficult at times, but I think Lonely Planet should take those difficulties into account.
Of course the chapters on Southern Thailand will now have to be updated in the light of the recent tsunami tragedy, not to mention continuing unrest in the Muslim-majority provinces in the far south. But no guide book can keep pace with events such as those.

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