Friday, May 10, 2013

Green book review - The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari by Paul Theroux

Africa is dear to our heart, which is why we're so proud to have one of our planting partners  RIPPLE Africa, operating in Malawi, Africa. This is also why we're so happy to review a special book on a special journey in this troubled and beautiful continent.

Our book for this week is:

The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari by Paul Theroux (publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

What this book is about?

Following the success of the acclaimed Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and The Great Railway Bazaar, The Last Train to Zona Verde is an ode to the last African journey of the world's most celebrated travel writer.

“Happy again, back in the kingdom of light,” writes Paul Theroux as he sets out on a new journey through the continent he knows and loves best. Theroux first came to Africa as a twenty-two-year-old Peace Corps volunteer, and the pull of the vast land never left him. Now he returns, after fifty years on the road, to explore the little-traveled territory of western Africa and to take stock both of the place and of himself.

His odyssey takes him northward from Cape Town, through South Africa and Namibia, then on into Angola, wishing to head farther still until he reaches the end of the line. Journeying alone through the greenest continent, Theroux encounters a world increasingly removed from both the itineraries of tourists and the hopes of postcolonial independence movements. Leaving the Cape Town townships, traversing the Namibian bush, passing the browsing cattle of the great sunbaked heartland of the savanna, Theroux crosses “the Red Line” into a different Africa: “the improvised, slapped-together Africa of tumbled fences and cooking fires, of mud and thatch,” of heat and poverty, and of roadblocks, mobs, and anarchy. After 2,500 arduous miles, he comes to the end of his journey in more ways than one, a decision he chronicles with typically unsparing honesty in a chapter called “What Am I Doing Here?”

Vivid, witty, and beautifully evocative, The Last Train to Zona Verde is a fitting final African adventure from the writer whose gimlet eye and effortless prose have brought the world to generations of readers. 

About the author
Paul Theroux is the author of many highly acclaimed books. His novels include The Lower River and The Mosquito Coast, and his renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod. 

Our review:
The Last Train to Zona Verde by Paul Theroux was read with mixed feelings. I had a bit of awe, a bit of jealousy, and a bit of fear for this writer. He is one of the true and real travel writers. He goes to the places he writes about and tells you of his visit in fine and colorful detail. He has a fantastic voice and tells the story with such life that at times you forget that it’s not fiction. I wish I could see some of the things he has seen and wish I could forget some of the things I have learned from him.

On this journey, Paul spent his time roaming through parts of Africa that frankly I had to hunt down on a map to find: the bush country or Zona Verde, Cape Town, Botswana, and Namibia are just a few. This is not simply a story about the landscape, but actual events that he saw or lived, such as: the people; or the wildlife and landscape destruction that we all know about, but don’t actually see face to face in our own everyday lives; or the government’s blasé indifference to the state of the things. Then it all ends, so fast and so unexpectedly. I felt his strong emotions about having to quit his adventure before he had planned, thanks only to violent militant actions.

I wish I could come up with a better word, but this book was simply very well done. You can purchase the book on (in both electronic and hardcover formats).