Review: Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Paul Theroux

Rating: “Not Sure” out of 5 / 😛 => Updated 0.5 out of 5

So… I really don’t know. Parts of this book I loved, parts I detested. Mr Theroux comes up with many interesting observations on his way around Eurasia and he also manages to find and note down conversations with some very interesting people. These notes, invariably, lead towards building a better understanding of who share in this world we live in.

Yet, at the same time, this is also one very long list of a 65-year old man’s sexual frustrations. At least a third of the people the author decides to describe on his journeys are related to the sex industry. While I appreciate Mr Theroux’s claim that “understanding a culture’s sexual tropes helps understand that culture”, then much of the tone in which he goes around talking to sex workers is not of understanding or even describing, but rather of his wish that he could also partake of it.

Another negative — and perhaps more important than the previous one — was how Mr Theroux notes that he lied about some facts in his previous travel books. This is an immediate alarm cry; the reader is thereby also called to question everything that the author describes this time round. While perhaps true, this is an irresponsible statement.

Yet, it is heartwarming to read of the encounters with regular people — whether a worker in far Siberia or the son of the previous hotel manager in SEA — as well as to hear about what was important, more than a decade ago, to the many people on this vast continent.

Overall, I am willing to take up another book by him — and even lined up the original of this journey, ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’. Yet, I cannot rate this title.

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