Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux

The Mosquito Coast (original 1980; edition 1996)

by Paul Theroux

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,699244,197 (3.72)100
Title:The Mosquito Coast
Authors:Paul Theroux
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1996), Edition: New Ed, Paperback
Collections:SMI - ZWI
Tags:USA, read

Work details

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux (1980)

  1. 10
    The Survival of Jan Little by John Man (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: A non-fiction book with a story and characters so reminiscent of Mosquito Coast that I've often wondered whether Little's is the true story that Theroux supposedly based his novel upon. (Also published under the even more cringe-making title Survive!)
  2. 10
    The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux (brianjungwi)
    brianjungwi: Ideas for the Mosquito Coast came from his trip during The Old Patagonian Express
  3. 00
    The Missionaries: God Against the Indians by Norman Lewis (brianjungwi)
  4. 00
    The London Embassy by Paul Theroux (John_Vaughan)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 100 mentions

English (21)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  All (24)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
"Must be nice to be king of your own country"
By sally tarbox on 17 May 2017
Format: Paperback
Featuring an unforgettable lead-character, this was a pretty good read.
13 year old Charlie Fox narrates the account of his family's exodus from Massachusetts - where his eccentric inventor father decries the American way of life- for the jungles of Honduras. Here, Allie Fox plans on a simpler way of life, with himself and his inventions firmly at the centre. Even religion cannot be allowed to put him in second place: " 'Pray if you must', said Father, 'but I'd rather you listened to me.' His children's achievements are always denigrated lest they detract from his own.
But as the adventure starts to pall, the children realise their father isn't infallible...
Really enjoyed this to start with but felt it went on a tad too long, with the floods, vultures and an increasingly irrational Father. But certainly a memorable novel. ( )
  starbox | May 16, 2017 |
Great fun to start with. A bit bizzare at the end ( )
  keithgordonvernon | May 1, 2017 |
Wow, the dad was brilliant! Unfortunately, as is characteristic of some genius', he went over the edge. Couldn't put it down. ( )
  junepearl | Mar 4, 2016 |
A genius and bipolar father takes his family to go live in one of the most godforsaken and inhospitable places imaginable (Honduras). Surprisingly successful at establishing themselves, the family seems to be doing pretty well until fate steps in to send the plot into the nether regions of hell. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A tale about a man who isn't as smart as he thinks he is (the problem being that he's smart enough to fool the people around him, even himself), and the family that he drags along in his wake. In some ways this story is fascinating, but it's undermined by the writing not trusting the readers, an inconsistent or unsatisfying portrayal of certain characters, and a lack of an insightful message.

The main character, Allie, is a complicated character- he's mechanically brilliant, hates commercialization and consumerism with the heat of a thousand suns, and is by turns wildly charismatic and wildly off-putting to the people he meets. Allie isn't a thoroughly realistic character, but I don't think Theroux intended for him to be one, instead he's a representation of certain characteristics cranked up to eleven. It's quickly apparent that, although he's smart in some ways, that intelligence has led to him developing ideas and expectations about the world that are unrealistic, but which he's entirely committed to. With this being the case you know early on that this trip he's making isn't going to end well, which gives the entire thing an air of foreboding, but which also steals some of the dramatic tension from the story: even when things are going surprisingly well, you see that there's still a big chunk of the book left and you just know that things aren't going to stay well forever.

The book takes you on an interesting journey, but there were three problems I had with it: First, Theroux doesn't place any trust in the reader. A segment that exemplifies this is when the narrator, Charlie, is newly arrived in the jungle and finds a bird caught in a spider web. It is explained that this is a bird that isn't native to the area, and therefore wasn't wary and got caught. Charlie muses that maybe his family is like the bird, not a local and therefore not prepared for what they've gotten themselves into. Theroux doesn't trust his readers to draw the parallel themselves, and instead spells it out, something that recurs throughout the work. Near the end of the book Charlie explicitly explains what he thinks makes his father Allie tick, instead of leaving it to the reader to suss out.

Second, there are problems with characterization. Charlie is supposed to be 13-14, but his narrative voice seems closer to that of a ten-year-old. That's a minor complaint though compared to my main one, which is that the mother character doesn't make any sense as Theroux portrays her. This is a woman who lets her husband take her and her children away from a house and a relatively comfortable life in New England, give up everything, move to a Third World country, and set up camp in the middle of a jungle. The only way that this makes sense is if she either agrees with her husband that this is a good idea, or if she is the type of person that defers to her husband in all things. Instead of having her be as anti-consumerism as her husband or a complete pushover, however, Theroux tries to portray the mother as capable and more down-to-earth than her husband, not subservient to him, but also willing to drag her young children across the world and risk their lives repeatedly for something she doesn't believe in. The mother not completely devoid of a backbone that Theroux tries to portray would have told her husband "you can continue this trip or you can be with your family, but not both" at the first sight of La Ceiba. With the mother character Theroux tries to have it both ways, and the result isn't satisfying.

Third, I don't think there's much insight here to take away from the book. I think it's a side-effect of Allie being composed of characteristics cranked up to 11 that the trip he takes his family on isn't a source for relatable life lessons, at least not ones that aren't trite. The United States isn't perfect, but it's pretty good in a lot of ways. Just because a place hasn't been touched by industrialization doesn't make it the garden of eden. A simpler way of life doesn't necessarily make that life more satisfying, or easier, or better. People who are overconfident in their own abilities are in for a rude awakening. Children worship their parents and make excuses for them, but parents aren't perfect. Anti-consumerism taken to the utmost extremes isn't realistic or the way that we're going to solve our problems. It's all so obvious. There are hundreds of other lessons you can pull out of this book, but are any of them that poignant? I'm trying to think of something this book has to say that was new to me, but I'm coming up blank. I just recently read a book by Ismail Kadare, an Albanian writer who makes Albania seem awe-inspiring in some ways, but in other ways just rather awful. It's a much more nuanced and interesting touch than Theroux showcases here with Honduras, and it's much more conducive to new ideas.

If you're looking for a book satirizing the type of people who say "I'm going to move to Canada!" or the people who put the poor or the simple life on a pedestal, The Mosquito Coast does that, in a way. It's also a book that really gives you someone to root against, a main character that isn't realistic but who is still very interesting. The book has got some problems, though, and don't expect to finish it having gained some new life lesson. ( )
1 vote BayardUS | Jan 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
We drove past Tiny Polski's mansion house to the main road, and then the five miles into Northampton, Father talking the whole way about savages and the awfulness of America - how it got turned into a dope-taking, door locking, ulcerated danger zone of rabid scavengers and criminal millionaires and moral sneaks.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
"In a breathtaking adventure story, the paranoid and brilliant inventor Allie Fox takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle, determined to build a civilization better than the one they've left. Fleeing from an America he sees as mired in materialism and conformity, he hopes to rediscover a purer life. But his utopian experiment takes a dark turn when his obsessions lead the family toward unimaginable danger."  --- Amazon description for ISBN 978-0618658961
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618658963, Paperback)

In a breathtaking adventure story, the paranoid and brilliant inventor Allie Fox takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle, determined to build a civilization better than the one they've left. Fleeing from an America he sees as mired in materialism and conformity, he hopes to rediscover a purer life. But his utopian experiment takes a dark turn when his obsessions lead the family toward unimaginable danger.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:17 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

An eccentric American inventor moves his family to the jungles of Central America in hopes of finding a better life

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
59 avail.
15 wanted
1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.72)
0.5 1
1 3
1.5 3
2 28
2.5 8
3 97
3.5 33
4 129
4.5 12
5 84

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 114,381,920 books! | Top bar: Always visible