Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book Review: The Happy Isles of Oceania

Book Review: The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux

What would you do if you were a world famous travel writer who’s marriage was in the final stages of death and you were an emotional wreck? If you were Paul Theroux, you would set out on along adventure to find places that are beautiful and happy - like the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Starting in Australia, Theroux takes his portable kayak to over 51 islands exploring the lands, culture, and people he meets along the way. Aa he journeys you get to delve deep into the personality of such an interesting man; his wit, biases, religious views, insecurities, and his search for peace and paradise. The author shares his unique experience of each place highlighting both the weaknesses and strengths of the people he runs into. The book falls strongly into the travel genre but is quite readable and should appeal to everyone.

The best part of this book is its uniqueness. It is a kayaking book, a travel book, a book about culture, a book about divorce, a book about happiness, and a book about history - all wrapped up into one. Sometimes Theroux villifies some of the people he meets quite harshly (like the Australians and missionaries) and you get a sense that is some deep insecurity in him. Strangely I found this trait somewhat endearing. His descriptions of the islands themselves are quite fetching and if anyone was thinking about taking an extended vactation (or even relocating) to the Pacific this would be a great resource as Theroux often compares the islands (pros and cons) to each other as he paddles. Maps of the island show most of the places he visits and are quite handy for following his journey.

If you are a serious paddler, this book is a must add to your library. Though not strictly a “paddling” book, there is enough exotic locales to keep even the most serious paddler engaged in that aspect of his adventure. It would also be a great read if you were going on vacation somewhere tropical or if you are stuck at home experiencing cabin fever in a long, cold winter. I’ve read this book three times so far and have it enjoyed it immensely every time. I found that I connected with his discontent with life and his desire for solitude and paradise. His joy at finding such places is never fully realized as he reflects on being alone and wondering if the next island is better then the one he's on. Eventually he does find a near perfect place and that is where the story ends. Where is it? You'll have to read the book to find out. My rating for this book is 4.5 ninja stars out of 5.


Lifelines said...

I'll have to check this book out!

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