Part memoir, part travelogue, all passionate appreciation, Tales from the Torrid Zone begins in Iririki, Alexander Fraters birthplace. On this tiny island in the South Seas republic of Vanuatu, his grandfather, a Presbyterian missionary from Scotland, converted the inhabitants, his father ran the hospital and his mother built its first schoolhouse in their front garden. And it was on Iririki where, on the eve of his sixth birthday, Frater fell victim to le coup de bamboo . . . a mild form of tropical madness for which, luckily, there is no cure, and which has compelled him, again and again, to return to the seeding, breeding, buzzing, barking, fluttering, squawking, germinating, growing deep tropics.
His travels take him to nearly all of the eighty-eight countries encompassed by this remarkable, steamy swath of the world. He delves deeply into the history and politics of each nation he visits, and into the lives of the inhabitants, and of the flora and fauna. He is, at once, tourist, explorer and adventurer, as fascinated withand fascinating aboutthe quotidian as he is with the extraordinary. But certainly, he does not lack for the extraordinary: dining with the Queen of Tonga in a leper colony; making his way across tropical Africaand two civil warsin a forty-four-year-old flying boat; delivering a new church bell to a remote Oceanian island.
From Fiji to Laos, Mexico to Peru, Senegal to Uganda, Taiwan to Indonesia, Frater gives us a richly described, wonderfully anecdotal, endlessly surprising picture of this diverse, feverish, languorously beautiful worldas much a state of mind as it is a geographical phenomenon.
The reader can imagine the book being written in a warm, humid climate with the heat sapping the writer's energy so that nothing moves too quickly and both writer and reader can luxuriate in the present while reminiscing about the past. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Washington Times - Ann Geracimos
Alexander Frater's Tales from the Torrid Zone is a book to treasure on many levels. The wealth of knowledge revealed on its pages scientific, sociological, geographical, linguistic and more plus the astounding mix of characters and incidents, should put this volume at the top of any list for those interested in making a thorough exploration of the author's special world .... Be prepared to be fascinated and frustrated.
Boston Globe - Barbara Fisher
Ranging broadly over this vast area [of the tropics], Frater tells tall tales, gives lessons in history, politics, and economics, and recounts his personal adventures. This world is literally teeming with natural wonders, local characters, and wild stories . . . Entertaining.
The New York Times - William Grimes
Mr. Frater, a genial tour guide and a stylish writer, makes excellent company.
The New York Times Book Review - Christopher Benfey
Part memoir, part travel yarn, a hymn to the solar lands where people ‘wear their shadows like shoes’ . . . Frater adopts a tropical profusion of language to match his teeming subject, writing with gusto . . . He’s bracingly willing to take verbal as well as physical risks [but] some of the best things in the book are quieter, more lyrical moments . . . Wide-ranging . . . Impressive.
In this beautifully written book, Frater examines people and places from a detached perspective, but his thoughts and conversations reveal the torrid zone on a very personal level. The reader can almost feel the stifling wet heat.
The Guardian (UK) - Sara Wheeler
The prose style is breezy and chatty, but Frater could have worked harder at weeding out the clichés. Wearing his journalist's hat he produces "never a dull moment", "the island's fate was sealed", and so on. But he has a distinctive voice, the most essential weapon in the travel writer's arsenal, and he deploys it to express something universal.
Alexander Frater has contributed
to various UK publications and, as chief
travel correspondent for the Observer
newspaper, has won an unprecedented
number of British Press Travel Awards.
Miles Kington calls him 'the funniest
man who wrote for Punch since the
war'. He lives in London and whenever
time and money allow, is likely to be
found skulking deep in the hot, wet
Quick Tropical Facts:
The tropics are the geographic
region of the Earth centered on the
equator and limited in latitude by
the Tropic of Cancer in the northern
hemisphere, at approximately 23°30'
(23.5°) N latitude, and the Tropic
of Capricorn in the southern
hemisphere at 23°30' (23.5°) S
latitude. This region is also
referred to as the...
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