Monday, June 01, 2009

Eye catching!

About two months ago I was out perusing the bookshelves of a Borders when the cover on the right jumped off the shelves at me. As it probably has done to you.

Not only is the cover good, but the book, Viva South America! by Oliver Balch to be exact, is a good read to boot; each country explored on a different theme - religion, violence, politics etc - and full of characters and stories as Balch travels around and is constantly 'put in contact' with the right people every step of the way. But he doesn't just take the gravy train, and flits between the slums and the elected officials' offices as he goes, talking to those promising changes in the running of their respective countries, to those displaced by the violence of the FARC or those who have seen their land ravaged by multi-nationals.

The chapter on Ecuador was particularly strong as he documents the trip out to visit a native tribe, and then accompanying them on a hunt to catch a monkey, and in doing so, gently lifts the lid of the changing nature of the tribe, their interaction with the outside world, and their relationship with the tourists who are taken out to visit them.

There's a lack of photos that would have given the book a nice bit of colour to match the front cover, and sometimes it probably would have added the final touch to some of the stories - at one point he even mentions that he had his photo taken carrying the dead monkey and surrounded by the two Ecuadorian tribesmen who caught it after the jungle chase, and it seems strange such a photo isn't included - but a minor gripe on what is otherwise, a very interesting and compelling read.

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