Top critical review
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Entertaining, but a little Loose on the details
on 4 September 2011
I must say, I'm a little surprised at how many 5 stars this book got. After reading those same 5 star Reviews, I decided that it was probably worth downloading and tucked in on the tube.
As with most people, I did think the book was entertaining. The idea of giving up everything for a massive trek across 2 continents with all the splendour and anticipation that would bring. And it did start off so well! The build up was fantastic and like Lois, I was probably just as excited about her first day as she was!
However, it kind of went a little downhill from there. Considering she was on the road for 8 months, the book feels a little empty. There are times when whole countries are dispatched in one or two pages with barely any content about them at all. It's this vagueness, not just about her journey, but also about herself that really lets this book down. There must have been so many wonderful things to have seen, so many wonderful people she could have met and so many little events that she could have written about.
What we get however are pages and pages about what things grinded her about this country, and what things grinded her about that country. At times, I was wondering why she didn't pack her bags and just leave; she seemed to hate pretty much all of South America. Not just this, it's quite apparent that she never really got to know any of the locals. The majority of the people she writes about are not from the country she is in, but fellow bikers who she meets along the way. Did she even bother to stop in a city for more than few days to actually get to know the people? And this shows through in the way she writes about her travels. It almost seems she is disconnected from the world around her. Perhaps this was really the case, but I never got the feeling that I was getting to know Lois. We are never really let truly into her world. We just get what annoyed her on the trip, whether it be bad food, bad locals or bad companions. When she does eventually get to the end, you don't feel like you've accomplished anything with her - her arrival at Ushuaia explained away in all but two paragraphs.
What bothered me a lot was also the way she writes about Amalia. Lois makes herself sound like a Saint whilst making Amalia sound like an arrogant b*tch. This may be true about Amalia - but it's painfully obvious how she feels about Amalia. Without delving into any details, Lois has a distinct lack of any sympathy with what happens to Amalia and we are never told what eventually unfolds.
For me, a good travel book puts you in the heart of the action, makes you emotionally involved with the country you're in. Not being a biker myself, I felt like Lois and her biker friends were in their own little world and, just like the Gap Year Students she describes, not really immersed in any culture. It takes more than a few days in a country or town to understand it and appreciate it. This may have happened, but it never comes across in the book.
Overall, an entertaining read for a flight or on the beach - but not as epic as it could have been