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THE A5 BOOK REVIEW
The Great Railway Bazaar is the story of Paul Theroux’s 1973 train trip from London to Tokyo and back. The odyssey took four months, with Theroux first traveling east through Europe, then through the Middle East, into and across India and Southeast Asia, and then back to London through Russia. Theroux used his time on trains and his natural curiosity to focus less on the experience of seeing new places but more to study the people he met along the way. His witty and sometimes judgmental observations equally covered both fellow travelers and locals, providing a different but accurate perspective on humanity and the local culture. The trains themselves are also important characters, including the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow, the Mandalay Express, and finishing with the legendary Trans-Siberian Express. Theroux doesn’t try to overly glamorize the trip and is not afraid to point out the the occasional discomfort. Some may get turned off by his non-stop grumbling along the way about food and service. For us though, the refreshing authenticity of his writing is what makes him great. The Great Railway Bazaar is one of the quintessential great examples of travel writing and in our opinion, Paul Theroux's best travel book.
Click here for reviews and prices for this book on Amazon.
Thirty Years Later... Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2008)
Thirty years after his epic adventure with The Great Railway Bazaar, Theroux decided to recreate the trip to assess just how much has changed. And a lot had changed; the Soviet Union collapsed and the population and economies of China and India have exploded. Luckily for the reader, Theroux’s love for humanity and scathingly honest writing style has not. His observations are just as entertaining and enlightening as ever, and we recommend this book almost as much as the original. Click here to see our review on Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.
OTHER A5 RECOMMENDED TRAVEL BOOKS FROM PAUL THEROUX
Paul Theroux is one of the world's most prominent travel writers, and one who deserves credit for shaping and defining the genre. We at A5 Travel Books are big fans of his rich descriptions of people and settings, his self-deprecating and sometimes wicked sense of humor, and his intelligence. He has written numerous travel essays and works of fiction, several of which were turned into movies. See more from Paul Theroux here.
GREAT QUOTES FROM THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR
“So far I had been travelling alone with my handbook and my Western Railway timetable: I was happiest finding my own way and did not require a liaison man. It had been my intention to stay on the train, without bothering about arriving anywhere: sight-seeing was a way of passing the time, but, as I had concluded in Istanbul, it was an activity very largely based on imaginative invention, like rehearsing your own play in stage sets from which all the actors had fled.”
"The trains contain the essential paraphernalia of the culture: Thai trains have the shower jar with the glazed dragon on its side, Ceylonese ones the car reserved for Buddhist monks, Indian ones a vegetarian kitchen and six classes, Iranian ones prayer mats, Malaysian ones a noodle stall, Vietnamese ones bulletproof glass on the locomotive, and on every carriage of a Russian train there is a samovar. The railway bazaar with its gadgets and passengers represented the society so completely that to board it was to be challenged by the national character."