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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 8 February 2016
I had read this over 30 years ago, so it was nice to re-read it again. This is early Twain, but there is still a sense of his future style and his colorful way of describing both people and situations. There are also some parts that are direct references to things that are in later writings; for example stories from his days in the Nevada Territory and as a river boat pilot on the Mississippi. This, much to my surprise, is an Amazon book, so it leads to me believe that it is perhaps from a batch of "print on demand books." The formating is very mechanical as if it were dumped from a digital file with gaps between each paragraph. Worst of all, there is no form of scholarly essay about the work, which was something that I was really looking forward to.
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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 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 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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on 18 September 2015
The original travel book. Twain's experiences across Europe and the Holy Land are hilarious and insightful, mixing sharp satire with beautiful descriptions. The best bits are when he arrives in the Bible-lands and gets to work on the hypocrisy of organised religion. For me, Twain's biography and journalism (A Tramp Abroad, Roughing It) are better than his novels.
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on 31 August 2014
As described, well packaged and promptly sent. A wise man writes an early 'travel' book. He looks at the comedic side of the human condition in a way later taken up by the likes of Bill Bryson, an acute observer trying to answer 'Why?'.
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on 21 August 2013
I have never read any of Mark Twain's books but was prompted to get this one by comments in Mark Baldacci's book the Christmas Train. I have not been disappointed. Mark Twain's acerbic wit and irreverent observations on the countries he visits and the peoples he meets on this journey are a joy. At times I have laughed out loud.

I can recommend this book without hesitation.
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on 25 October 2014
I found this mildly entertaining but very dated and very much non politically correct. You couldn't take offence as it reflects the time it was written. Some descriptions did make me laugh but after a while I found it a bit samey nd not enough action to keep me interested.
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