I am ridiculously fond of this book. It reads as if a very exciting and slightly eccentric uncle has come to stay and is sat in a battered leather armchair telling tales – each story as unexpected as the last. It is the best kind of travel writing; stuffed full of character, carting you off to places that may not even exist anymore, and never being quite sure what’s around the next bend.
Newby had a fantastic life and treats all of it as an adventure. The domestic details of growing up in London in the early 1900s are spun out with as much energy and colour as his travels abroad. It is nothing short of bizarre to find the man best known for ‘A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush’ spent a good few years of his life working in Ladies’ Fashion, and for John Lewis at that. As my own grandfather worked in a similar role in London in the 50s and 60s, it was rather touching to see this section of his life written with the same humour and energy as the more naturally exhilarating setting of crewing a tall ship across the ocean.
From: I seem to remember buying this new at an airport – a complete extravagance and totally worth it.
Felt: Nostalgic for times and places I have never seen and thoroughly amused – the whole thing was read with a wry smile but it is occasionally laugh out loud funny.
Loved: that in-between laughing at himself and everything around him, Newby’s writing can become very poignant and almost poetic.
Would recommend: wholeheartedly – with the caveat that this is my favourite type of writing, on topics and places I’m very fond of so I’m completely biased and apologies if you’re bored stiff!