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4.3 out of 5 stars
25
The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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 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.
5 people found this helpful
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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.
One person found this helpful
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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.
One person found this helpful
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on 1 November 2017
An atmospheric trip to Columbia - part travelogue, part memoir.
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on 4 March 2016
An account of a journey to the source of the Magdalena river in Colombia. A gentle quest to understand the river as it was when the 15 year old Marquez took his own first formative journey by boat, and a reflection on the lives of Jacobs' parents before the onset of dementia. Seemingly disparate yet very much one beautifully interwoven story.
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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 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!
3 people found this helpful
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on 20 September 2014
Very much enjoyed both the subject matter and the author's style of writing.Sadly he is no longer with us RIP,many thanks for sharing a small part of a very rich life.
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on 18 May 2016
A companion piece to Michael Jacobs Andes. The counterpoint to the Magdalena journey of Michael's parents mental decline is touching and honest and every word of this book rings true.
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