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The Places In Between Paperback – 1 Apr 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 128 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Unabridged edition (1 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330486349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330486347
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This is traveling at its hardest and travel-writing at its best (David Gilmour)

His encounters with Afghans are tragic, touching and terrifying (Daily Telegraph)

[Stewart] must have balls of steel, but he writes like and angel all the same (Giles Foden)

This evocative book feels like a long lost relic of the great age of exploration (Guardian)

An astonishing achievement: a unique journey of great courage (Colin Thubron)

Wise, funny and marvelously humane (Michael Ignatieff)

Book Description

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER: A brilliant account of a death defying walk through Afghanistan. Now with illustrations and a new afterword --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I read in early 2002 that Stewart was setting off from Herat to walk across the empty centre of Afghanistan in mid-winter I wrote him off as a dead man. I was wrong, and this is the account which explains what happened on that walk. Ismail Khan, no less, shared my profound doubts, as Stewart explains in his opening chapter.
Another reviewer has suggested that Stewart's account of his difficult, dangerous and fascinating journey still pales in comparison to that classic, Robert Byron's Road to Oxiana (who drove the route). I would argue that this is a great modern travel book, however, for three reasons. First, its honesty. Stewart makes clear how far he walked and when. There is no attempt to disguise a couple of weeks' experience as a great journey (viz Jason Elliott's An Unexpected Light, which I none the less enjoyed). He freely admits the times when he is wrong, stupid or unlucky. He does not pretend to speak the language fluently (though his self-admittedly patchy Farsi reveals endless insights). Secondly, its humour. Where Byron set up the 'natives' in set-pieces of condescendingly picaresque farce, Stewart allows the spirit and character of Afghans to speak for itself. So while it made me laugh out loud again and again, I never felt that he was milking the episodes or laughing at the characters. Thirdly, its literary quality. The account is highly focussed on the politics, local history and personalities as encountered place by place on the walk. This could have made for a rather dry, plodding account but the neat serialisation of events in bite sized chapters maintains the pace and style.
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Format: Paperback
"Someone in Kabul told me a crazy Scotsman walked from Herat to Kabul right after the fall of the Taliban"

Thanks for the book. For it was indeed a journey of great spirit and determination. Mr. Stewart was well prepared for this trip with vitamins and various medications he knew would be necessary to successfully complete this challenge; ibuprofen, antibiotics, just name it and he had it; sharing with the villagers he met on his way when they saw what he had and begged him.

Well written, well told. I was truly impressed with how hospitable the people of Afghanistan were; those whom he encountered and offered him rest and meals and at times water to wash with, at their various humble abodes where he was invited to stay for the night. Even through they understood little English, Mr. Stewart was able to communicate to them by speaking Persian. I love reading about anything in the Eastern and Asian side of the world, so I was with him all the way. I felt like I was alongside him as he climbed those steep slopes and when he walked on the flat valleys. I drank tea with Mr. Stewart from glass cups, ate stale bread with him and soup, and enjoyed the rest at the end of the day, sleeping on a carpet or just on the floor.

The attention given to him was enormous as he persevered onwards. My main concern was just before he got to Kabul when he had to travel through the deep powdery snow which was known to cause frostbite, making it necessary to amputate limbs for some in the past. I held my breath as he and his dog companion Babur made it out of the snow covered mountains, and alas into another bright day. God bless you Rory Stewart.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very intelligent book - funny, moving and surprising -It is very understated so it takes time to realise how many different kinds of book it actually is. It is, for example:
An adventure story - describing the incredible dangers of walking across Afghanistan in a war at winter, finding lost cities and dodging Taliban with his companion and friend, Babur the dog.
Exploration: there is no record of any foreigner walking the length of Afghanistan since Babur in 1506 - and no-one before Stewart is known to have done it alone and unsupported.
Literature: his clean, uncluttered prose is moving and beautiful.
But also a work of scholarship: anyone who knows the interior of Afghanistan can confirm that Stewart's understanding of Afghan culture is exceptional - he speaks farsi and has really covered the ground. He is informed and careful and there are no cheap stereotypes. It is simultaneously:
anthropology (he stayed in over five hundred village houses on the walk),
archaeology (the finding of the lost city);
political science (his analysis as a diplomat of nation-building in Afghanistan)
and history (he follows and examines the diaries of the Emperor Babur and his solo crossing in winter calls into questions a number of historical assumptions about Afghanistan and its inaccessibility).
The Places in Between is a unique form of travel-writing: in which the journey, the prose, the erudition and the honesty of the writer are equally admirable. Buy it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How to review such a book for a general audience, not least because I am not expert on Afghanistan and so a member of that general audience.

I like to walk and was therefore interested in the story of a man who crossed Afghanistan on foot from East to West by the mountain route in winter. I know when I am outclassed and I felt it by page 2; but I enjoyed the book none the less. I didn't, for instance, think it an odd thing to do make that walk. I found it quite comprehensible.

The more I learned about Rory Stewart, the less - on principle - I liked him. Primarily, he is a Conservative and that makes him deeply suspect to me. Secondly he warms to soldiers and their jolly humour.

After I had read it, I mentioned the book to one who does know a lot about Afghanistan; and he seemed dismissive but in an odd way. After a few exchanges, he said "He's MI6" Really? "Of course, he is"

I had not thought of that.

I can't see any evidence in the text and I can't see a slant; but maybe I am being stupid.

Of the book itself, I cannot speak too highly. I have already spoken of it to a group who meet intermittently to discuss books they have read.

I learned a great deal. I would have learned it more permanently and a lot better if the maps had been up to it. They are good maps but inappropriately presented; and now I really have little sense of the journey in map terms, to use a lumbering phrase. I coped; but I could have been helped.

A substantial part of the book concerns his relationship with the dog Babur; and that was done well. It could have been sentimentalised; but Stewart reaches out in his writing to this animal with something approaching empathy and certainly with respect yet without sentimentalising.
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