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on 12 March 2013
It's a long book that combines the best and worst of Mark Twain. Sometimes he's hilariously funny and quite often wise and very quotable but he also strays into long meandering descriptions of places or events - places mostly - that could easily have been condensed considerably. I had to steel myself to read some of those and I must confess to skipping a couple of them. The other issue is that much of the prose relating to the people of various countries through which he travelled is, well, let's just say if it were written today the author would be accused of gross bigotry and racism. You have to try to imagine yourself living in the time of the author (late 1800's here) and forgive him for this. I don't suppose there were too many who were more enlightened than Mark Twain in his time.

So whilst there were times I had to force myself to persevere with this book, clearly there were enough wonderful moments to make up for the rest because I did persevere and, on the whole, enjoyed it.
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on 15 October 2012
If you have ever wondered why Mark Twain is a pivotal author of American Literature, this book is for you. In this, his first book, Mark Twain is at his best. In 1867, he records a five month cruise through Europe, The Middle East, The Holy Land, and Northern Africa. His rich descriptions vividly chronicle his journey - that in many ways would echo what a traveller may see, think and feel even today. His caustic criticisms are full of self deprecating humour and 'tongue in check' wit. All the way through the 500 page book, you will laugh aloud. Reading along as he undertakes his journey is surprisingly fascinating. It is very interesting to 'hear' the thoughts and perceptions of an American, a Christian, a 19th Century man ... of Mark Twain himself. Delightful!
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on 14 February 1999
This book describes a group tour of "Europe and the Holy Land" Samuel Clemens experienced and reported about 100 years ago. He describes, in a way that only Mark Twain can, the people he meets and the places they go from the point of view from the American West. One memorable example of his American perspective is a comparison of Italian mountains, lakes and rivers with his beloved Rockies, Tahoe, and Mississippi. He also paints humorous portraits of the tour guides and his fellow travelers. The first time I read this book I was on an organized bus tour in Europe and quickly realized how many of Twain's human observations on how tourists are treated still apply, which makes the humor very accessible.
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on 24 June 1999
This is Twain when he doesn't have to worry about a bloomin' story line or consistant dialogue. He simply writes what comes to mind, and manages to debunk every so-called monument of western civ.(Just why do they call this the holy land?!) He reminds us we don't have to be a cultured snob to be a superior person. Read this before you go to Europe or after your trip. Or whenever.
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on 17 June 2013
This, Mark Twain's first book, is a travellogue! Incredibly well written, funny beyond words and, characteristically for Twain, so quotable! No wonder this book shot him to literary fame. It was both absorbing and an education to read descriptions of his travels across Europe and the near East in 1869 and be given to appreciate how much (and little!) this part of the world has changed in the last 150 years!!! I even landed up learning about different places/sites I'd never heard of and found myself constantly googling landmarks he visited. What a privilege to have come across it!
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on 26 June 2015
I have known of this book for a very long time but didn`t get around to reading it when I was younger although I read most of his other books then. Now that I have got round to it I am finding it a little disappointing. Some of Mark Twain`s views on differences between European and American life and attitudes are interesting if, at times surprising. He finds the French, for example, much more polite and friendly than the average American. I think today`s travellers would not agree with that at all since friendliness and politeness are amongst the most striking features of modern America. He does also have a tendency to damn entire nationalities in a way that would not be acceptable nowadays. His view of the Portuguese is entirely negative which someone familiar with the modern country would again find surprising. Some of his lines like `foreigners spell better than they pronounce` are quite good, but in general the humour seems a little laboured. I imagine fashions in humour change just as other fashions do. His wry observations about the number of holy relics in Genoa are quite good. Perhaps the comparison is not quite fair but for me he doesn`t match a modern American travel writer, Bill Bryson, either for humour or observation. He`s not in the same league for either as P.J. O`Rourke. Paul Theroux, in a more serious vein, is also a more absorbing read. The whole art of travel writing has, of course, moved on since we can now travel so easily and know places so well. I`d certainly recommend reading any of the above, or, possibly even better, H.V. Morton, before this book.
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on 31 January 2015
Reading this, you'll feel as if a very enthusiastic and witty friend is telling you about the funniest holiday they ever had, with lots of wry observations about humanity (both Americans and foreigners) along the way. As usual, Mark Twain's writing is very direct, and whirls along at a cracking pace, which adds to the excitement of the book.
He'd read in a newspaper of a fabulous cruise was planned, around Europe and the 'Holy Lands' (and accepting only 'the best sort of people' !!) so, always eager for adventure, he decides to sign up for the trip. One of the joys of this book is seeing ways of life, manners, and cultural differences that have long since passed into history, through Twain's clear and lively eyes, that twinkle with mischief and joy in a very modern way.
As you may know, Twain spent many years on the Mississippi as a riverboat pilot - which he wrote about in 'Life on the Mississippi' - another book that's well worth a read. So naturally that experience informs his view of this trip, and he's excited and interested to see everything, from all angles. I should imagine he was a difficult man to share a cabin with - full of boisterous energy, exciting, funny and exasperating in equal measure!
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on 31 March 2004
Until reading this book I had little, even no perception of the way of life in mainland Europe in the 19th century. Yet after reading Twain's 'The Innocents Abroad' I couldn't help but feel refreshed and energised. My first thought when I got to the last page was that I had to visit the amazing places that he did 150 years ago.
I could never get bored of his sarcastic yet so true statements about the people and places he saw. I particularly enjoyed his synomonous accounts of busy and boisterous Napoli (Naples, Italy) and he really brought all the senses of what the city was like to me through the pages.
Despite being written so long ago it is suprising to see how little the world has changed apart from mass technological discovery. If all travel writers were as honest and 'frank' as Twain then I would be sure that we would all have a better judgement and sense of how the world around us really works.
A historical and cultural masterpieve written by one of America's most treasured and prized authors.
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on 30 March 1998
I think Clemen's funniest extended work. He was not far removed from his newspaper work at the time, nor had he established himself as a writer nationally. I believe because of that there is a vitality to the writing and unconcern with maintaining his stature that makes Innocents a serendiptious howler of a read.
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on 18 March 2012
Mark Twain sets off from New York for a tour of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East - and a couple of islands. But rather than the rose tinted lenses and purple prose of most 19th century travel writing, he lays into everything, from his elderly and religious travel companions (plundering relics as they go) to torturing his tour guides to scathing criticism of over-hyped tourist sites. Much is laugh out loud funny (if you want the highlights, go straight to the Holy Land section), and the world of Thomas Cook tours, Baedeker guides and Americans over-running Europe comes to life. Anyone who has ever suffered from travel companions or been underwhelmed by travel 'experiences' will be grateful to Mark Twain for saying what they felt. And almost all funny travel writing is in his debt - even if almost none holds up as well, reflecting both his technical skills as a writer and the brilliant set up of being trapped on a boat with other tourists. It's free, it's funny, and it will help you through your next holiday.
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