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Between Extremes: A Journey Beyond Imagination Hardcover – 2 Sep 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; 1st edition (Sept. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593042646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593042649
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 608,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Throughout their long captivity in Beirut, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan would often retreat to the lost paradises of their imagination, and particularly to the Chile of Isabel Allende's The House of Spirits, a land of and between extremes. Five years after their return from Beirut, Keenan and McCarthy travelled along South America's backbone, from the parched and scorching Atacama desert in the north to freezing, wind-torn Patagonia 3000 miles south, to realise their dream.

In addition to the two northern voices writing in unison is the continuous presence of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The Latin voice provides a delicate counterpoint to the prose, which is both fluid and humorous.

Between Extremes contains excellent descriptions of an awesome landscape and it guides the reader towards a penetrating and often surprising vision of the collective psychology of a society seeking to rediscover itself following the traumatic period of the Pinochet regime. At the same time, the two travellers seek to redefine their own friendship--this time in open spaces. --Philippa West

Review

"'One of the funniest and most moving testaments to friendship that one is likely to read'" (Stuart Wavell The Sunday Times)

"'Such an absorbing subject, so deeply and warmly expressed'" (Sara Wheeler Daily Telegraph)

"'The best travel book I've read so far this year'" (Pete Carthy Time Out)

"'They take us every step of the way with a wonderfully infectious joie de vivre'" (Independent on Sunday)

"'Such a vivid and inspiring odyssey that captivated readers will be spurred into booking flights to Chile...Fun glows from every page even in wretched times'" (Irish Independent) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It is well-written, very amusing and contains beautiful photographs to compliment the text. It gives an account of John McCarthy and Brian Keenen's realization of a captive fantasy to travel and walk in the wide open spaces of Chile and the high Andes. Chained together in a dungeon in Beirut the two men hatched an elaborate plan to breed yaks in Patagonnia to help them endure their ordeal; they vowed that when they were released they would travel together and visit these places for real instead of just in the confines of their imagination. This is the account of that journey. It shows the determined, courageous, and brave men that they are, and it is all put together with warm, gentle humour that makes a thrilling journey even more enjoyable. It gives a glimpse of the close, unshakable bond that the two men have developed over the years and draws the reader into that friendship so that by the end of the book you feel as if you were there with them in Chile. Fearful things happen to them along the way, like having to cross a ridge on horseback with a sheer drop on either side, but they show the courage and strength of spirit that got them through Beirut; they control their fear and carry on. There is also some insight into their thoughts and feelings and how the journey related back to their experiences in captivity; these are interesting and enlightening. And, of course, they keep you guessing until virtually the end of the book what is going to happen with their yak-farming plans!!! Overall, a delightful book; a rich combination of travel, adventure, humour and relationships. Well worth a read.
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Format: Hardcover
It must be very difficult for two authors to write a book, alternating short paragraphs with each other. It must be doubly difficult if the two authors are so different and have such different styles. Yet, despite these obstacles (maybe because of them?), this book works so very well. I really enjoyed it.
Keenan is the more erudite of the two, making their incredible journey along the length of Chile, following his spirits of Neruda and O'Higgins, and his paragraphs are filled with the poetry of the former and the life and times of the latter. McCarthy on the other hand writes in a delightfully laconic way, and seems to effortless glide through this journey. Keenan's route is the more tortured.
What is clear though is that these two very different people are still extremely close and have a friendship the strength and depth of which few of us will ever experience. Their joy in each other's company is very evident, despite the hardships of the journey and the minor bickering that inevitably accompanies any prolonged time spent together.
This book is a testament to friendship, to realising dreams, to leaving behind (as much as would ever be possible) a terrifying ordeal and to hope for the future.
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Format: Hardcover
As an avid fan of both SOME OTHER RAINBOW and AN EVIL CRADLING I have long wanted to know how these two inspiring men dealt with the journey from captivity to freedom, a journey between extremes that most of us, thank God, have never had to experience. In any event, we would want John and his irascible cell-mate as our guides, and their book is unusually compelling, as well as being enlightening, amusing and wonderfully well written. Keenan has been labeled the poet and McCarthy the journalist, but John proves here that he writes like a dream, and has retained and built upon the affecting humanity that he displayed upon his release from Beirut. This is a marvellous book in every sense, and though the yak farm proved elusive, there is much else for the reader to find.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful epilog to the authors' hostage stories. To be sure, a celebrity's book is always about the topic AND the celebrity. And after reading An Evil Cradling and Some Other Rainbow, who wouldn't want to know that the writers are fine and flourishing? That said, it is refreshing to put away the familiar rugged-individualist-on-a-jaunt account to spend time with a couple of normal guys on a trek, in search of a past fantasy. Atypically, one consults Neruda's poetry as if it were a guidebook while the other tries to maintain an urban fastidiousness in a desert frontier. But they are also apprehensive about horseback riding on narrow mountain trails, afraid of heights, wary of night drives down unmarked country roads, tapped out by sightseeing, and intrigued by local politics. They eat, they sleep, they shop, they bicker, and they enjoy their friendship. Who couldn't relate to these two? After reading this book I found myself searching for more photos of places they visited and vistas they described. I'll also admit to retrieving a dormant volume of Neruda from my own shelves to revisit a few favorite poems. Not a bad result of a light read.
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Format: Paperback
I am a Brit currently living in Chile - and this book was a disappointment to me. Unlike other books I have read on Chile this book did not convey the character of the people or the stunning beauty of the country.
I enjoyed the style of the book - it was a refreshing change to see two different view points set out section by section rather then the thoughts of the two mingled together. But this did not do Mr Keenan any favors - for by the end of the book I was skipping his sections. Pablo Neruda's poety is worth reading - there is no doubt - but there is so much more to Chile than one poet.
This country is stunningly beautiful - it's people so different in each region of this land - the scenery so distinct from north to south - and I was so disappointed that so little of that came across in their writing. In the end I felt that this book was more about their friendship and themselves than about a country which in recent times has had more publicity about some of its citizens than it has about its breathtaking beauty.
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