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4.4 out of 5 stars22
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 22 March 2013
I had hoped to receive this book for Christmas and take it with me to Colombia when I travelled there in January this year to birdwatch. Fortunately I didn't buy it until after my return for although it is well written, it painted a very different Colombia from the one I found. Unlike some other reviewers, for me I found the links between his mother's illness and the Rio Magdalena, worked well. On a personal note, I too travelled near the Rio Magdalena at times and at one time was taken to the river bank by a friendly bus driver - "Mi tierra es su tierra". I did not travel as far south as Michael Jacobs did as I knew that area is still not safe. So enjoy this book but don't let it put you off visiting Colombia, much of which is now safe, friendly, beautiful and welcoming. Every Colombian I met asked me "How do you find Colombia?" I was travelling alone, much of the time by bus, staying in beautiful bird reserves.
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on 8 January 2013
Michael Jacobs blends travelogue with literary, social, cultural and political history - as well as personal rumination on his mother's illness. It is beautiful, magical, transporting you to the very many places along the Magdalena which, having read it, you will want to visit.
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on 24 November 2012
As someone who knows Colombia well, I can recommend this book. I am hoping to visit the area Michael covers in the Spring of next year, when I go again on holiday. I have followed parts of the Magdalena when journeying from Medellin to Bogota and it really is magical country.
To anyone who is thinking of going to Colombia, I say : "Go!" Leave your prejudices behind. It is a beautiful land; the people are warm, open and hospitable and it is safe. The present, and previous, governments of Presidents Uribe and Santos have moved heaven and earth to end the civil conflict, and it is happening now.
You will be safe......and stunned by the country!
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on 9 January 2013
A fascinating and poignant book. It made me more determined than ever to visit Colombia - and to hang on to my memories as long as possible!
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on 20 May 2013
I've never been to Colombia so wasn't sure that this book would have much traction for me: how wrong I was. It's a terrific read, a wonderful portrayal of the country, its tragic recent history and political incompetence, of its great river and touchingly of the author's Colombian friends and acquaintances. It had me reaching for flight timetables - until the last section of the book which describes FARC's tragicomic attempt to improve its public image. Two small reservations. The reflections on memory and its loss added little, despite the subject's obvious personal significance for the author. And, a shame (as so often with books grounded in a particular geographic location) that the sketch map is inadequate. But, nonetheless, superb.
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on 13 August 2015
There are a number of stories here, linked to a degree by the first episode in the book where the author meets and elderly Garcia Marquez and they talk together about the trip the author is planning up the river Magdalena and the author learns, separately that Garcia Marquez is losing his memories and declining into dementia. The author goes on to narrate his trip up the river, by various means of transport, meeting a wide diversity of Colombians on the way including at the end FARC guerrillas and reflecting not just on the river and its environment, but its history and also the recent history of Colombia. Meanwhile he remembers his parents, both of whom have succumbed to different kinds of dementia, his father having died of Alzheimer's and his mother increasing suffering from loss of memory and confusion and inability to live alone even as the author travels up river in Colombia. He also recalls the story of his parents' meeting, in Sicily in the war, and sides to their character he never fully experienced personally or appreciated. One of his excursions from his central route on the Magdalena is a trip to see some demented Columbians in an area where there is a genetic predisposition to early-onset Alzheimers.

This is a very successful set of ingredients, and forms a book that always holds the interest.
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on 31 January 2013
I rate this book highly because it was easy to read, interesting, gave me an insight into a country I know quite well. It was a journey that could not have been undertaken unless one was a fluent Spanish speaker. It had a good deal of suspense and the ending when they reached the headwaters of the Magdalena was tense in the extreme. The theme of Garcia Marquez' memory loss, its connection to both his parents who were suffering with the same afflication gives an insight into a worldwide problem of Alzheimer's - and yet we were still rolling along on a travel story along the Magdalena river. Fascinating to learn that in one region through which the river passes, entire populations have been stricken with a rare strain of early onset Alzheimer's. A touching meditation on the nature of forgetfulness and forgetting woven into an exhilarating travel account.
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on 25 July 2015
I know Colombia reasonably well and was really looking forward to reading Jacob's book. I was a little disappointed. it has good moments but it somehow failed to engage me and I battled to finish it. Part of the problem was the author's meandering between the Magdalena river and Alzheimers. However other readers seem to have enjoyed this mix, so don't let me put you off.
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on 2 January 2013
Having lived in Colombia, and knowing this river it was a great read for me, also the part about his mothers illness was sad for me as my aunt had just gone through a similar period of life and then pasted away, all in all a very heart rendering read
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on 7 December 2012
If you like travel books this is a mustread, Colombia is shown to be such a fantastic country. I loved it.
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