18 July 2002

Book Review: River's Tale, A year on the Mekong, by Edward A. Gargan, *****

Synopsis

From windswept plateaus to the South China Sea, the Mekong flows for three thousand miles, snaking its way through Southeast Asia. Long fascinated with this part of the world, former New York Times correspondent Edward Gargan embarked on an ambitious exploration of the Mekong and those living within its watershed. The River’s Tale is a rare and profound book that delivers more than a correspondent’s account of a place. It is a seminal examination of the Mekong and its people, a testament to the their struggles, their defeats and their victories.

15 July 2002

Book Review: River of Time, by Jon Swain, *****

Synopsis

Between 1970 and 1975 Jon Swain, the English journalist portrayed in David Puttnam's film, "The Killing Fields", lived in the lands of the Mekong river. This is his account of those years, and the way in which the tumultuous events affected his perceptions of life and death as Europe never could. He also describes the beauty of the Mekong landscape - the villages along its banks, surrounded by mangoes, bananas and coconuts, and the exquisite women, the odours of opium, and the region's other face - that of violence and corruption.

He was in Phnom Penh just before the fall of the city to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. He was captured and was going to be executed. His life was saved by Dith Pran, the New York Times interpreter, a story told by the film The Killing Fields. In Indo-China Swain formed a passionate love affair with a French-Vietnamese girl. The demands of a war correspondent ran roughshod over his personal life and the relationship ended.

04 July 2002

Book Review: Extra Virgin (2001), by Annie Hawes, *****

Synopsis

A small stone house deep among the olive groves of Liguria, going for the price of a dodgy second-hand car. Annie Hawes and her sister, on the spot by chance, have no plans whatsoever to move to the Italian Riviera but find naturally that it's an offer they can't refuse. The laugh is on the Foreign Females who discover that here amongst the hardcore olive farming folk their incompetence is positively alarming. Not to worry: the thrifty villagers of Diano San Pietro are on the case, and soon plying the Pallid Sisters with advice, ridicule, tall tales and copious hillside refreshments ...