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Wild Coast: Travels on South America's…

Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge (2011)

by John Gimlette

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I have come to expect intriguing and humorous works from John Gimlette, and "Wild Coast" didn't let me down. I have been a fan of Gimlette since picking up "Tomb of the Inflatable Pig" some years ago and "Wild Coast" could be his best year. Gimlette takes us on a journey through Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana, introducing us to its people, its dark history and its uncertain future. To most people, the most one knows of the three countries is that Guyana is part of the West Indies cricket team (and the location of the Jamestown massacre), Surinam won a gold medal in swimming at the 1984 Olympics and French Guiana has a rocket launching site. This book gives you so much more.

And, yes, the book has increased my desire to visit these countries even more. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Mar 10, 2014 |
This is an intriguing look into the three Guianas. It emphasises Guyana and Surinam far more than Guyane. Gimlette integrates the history into the present quite well.
  Fledgist | Jan 14, 2012 |
Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge is a contemporary travel account mixed with history. It is a phenomenal book, some of which reads like good, old-fashioned travel narratives of earlier eras. Told over the space of nine chapters, the story alternates with the author's travels through Guyana, Surinam (or Suriname), and French Guiana. He's in good company: these regions were visited separately at one time by literary greats V.S. Naipaul (along with his brother Shiva) and Evelyn Waugh, whose sojourn through Guyana played a part in the creation of his most excellent novel Handful of Dust, as well as his own narrative of travel in Guyana and Brazil called 92 Days.

The author's travels are interesting on their own, but his extensive knowledge of the history of the three countries adds another dimension to this novel. One of his working ideas throughout the novel is that although "slavery seemed to have disappeared completely," it is "everywhere, even in the food and the way people lived". He notes that "every strand of Guianese life somehow led back to this point". To understand this concept, he takes his readers back in time, place to place, discussing not only slavery, but events leading up to the revolts of 1763 in the Barbice and again in Surinam of 1769, and what happened with the slaves who managed to escape afterwards. Truly fascinating stuff, but the book also incorporates the effects of colonization, racism, and immigration, as well as the geography, all of which have had a hand in making these areas what they are today. The history is quite necessary to the book, and there is the added bonus of all of the quirky people he happens to meet along his many journeys.

I very highly recommend this book -- one of the joys of reading it is that there is no sense that the author is trying to show us how interconnected our cultures are -- quite the opposite. Those types of travel narratives I can live without. In Wild Coast he shows that there are, inevitably, places in which the modern world has encroached, whether for good or for bad, but for the most part, there are still some mysteries left in these countries, vast areas of which are still dark and inaccessible. A truly fascinating read. ( )
3 vote bcquinnsmom | Sep 6, 2011 |
Excellent. Travel writing as it should be. Interesting, inquiring, informative and entertaining...without being contrived. ( )
  jacoombs | Sep 4, 2011 |
Showing 4 of 4
a narrative that sounds as if it had been penned by an Edwardian explorer—you can almost envision his pith helmet—but also by crafting a superb travelers' tale in which yesterday has far more ballast and heft than the fleeting happenings of today.
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Jonestown massacre / French satellite launching pad / Welcome to their world (MiaCulpa)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307272532, Hardcover)

Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana are among the least-known places in South America: nine hundred miles of muddy coastline giving way to a forest so dense that even today there are virtually no roads through it; a string of rickety coastal towns situated between the mouths of the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers, where living is so difficult that as many Guianese live abroad as in their homelands; an interior of watery, green anarchy where border disputes are often based on ancient Elizabethan maps, where flora and fauna are still being discovered, where thousands of rivers remain mostly impassable. And under the lens of John Gimlette—brilliantly offbeat, irreverent, and canny—these three small countries are among the most wildly intriguing places on earth.

On an expedition that will last three months, he takes us deep into a remarkable world of swamp and jungle, from the hideouts of runaway slaves to the vegetation-strangled remnants of penal colonies and forts, from “Little Paris” to a settlement built around a satellite launch pad. He recounts the complicated, often surprisingly bloody, history of the region—including the infamous 1978 cult suicide at Jonestown—and introduces us to its inhabitants: from the world’s largest ants to fluorescent purple frogs to head-crushing jaguars; from indigenous tribes who still live by sorcery to descendants of African slaves, Dutch conquerors, Hmong refugees, Irish adventurers, and Scottish outlaws; from high-tech pirates to hapless pioneers for whom this stunning, strangely beautiful world (“a sort of X-rated Garden of Eden”) has become home by choice or by force.

In Wild Coast, John Gimlette guides us through a fabulously entertaining, eye-opening—and sometimes jaw-dropping—journey.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Describes the author's visit to South America's lesser-known Guianese coast, where he toured the coastal towns, torrential rivers, and dense forests of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, in an account that also describes the region's remarkable wildlife and violent history.… (more)

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