Misadventures in the Maldives cover
Review 06 April

Book review: From the Arctic to the Indian Ocean

From misadventures in the 'real' Maldives to cycling 1970s Northern Ireland, these books cover both the globe and the centuries

The honeymoon haven that is the Maldives goes through the big D-I-V-O-R-C-E in Tom Chesshyre’s Gatecrashing Paradise. Chesshyre, one of the most dependably interesting modern travel writers, explores the offbeat atolls of this sinking archipelago, wandering beyond the five-star resorts to uncover an authentic idyll just as nourishing – and an Indian Ocean’s worth of paranoia and corruption.

Iain Finlayson finds a fair bit of corruption in Tangier: City of the Dream (originally published 1992), which chases the city’s Dionysian literary refugees – Bowles, Burroughs, Capote, Orton – amid narrow souqs and into smoky backrooms, away from the censorious eyes of the authorities elsewhere. Finlayson explores the city’s exotic buffet of hedonism and acceptance: a history and hangover in one book.

The Northwest Passage – the Holy Grail of Victorian explorers (and businesses) – has been back in the news with the discovery of one of the Franklin Expedition’s doomed ships. Kathleen Winter finds herself on a sturdier vessel for Boundless, exploring the changing landscape of the route and the people who exist along it, contrasting it to her own relationship with Arctic Canada. If the latter aspect – slightly earnest – doesn’t quite work, the former makes up for it.

A brilliant balance of place and personal can be found in A Place Apart, Dervla Murphy’s attempt to get to grips with Northern Ireland in the mid-70s by cycling it – a gripping and essential history. Along with John Freely’s loose scrapbook of Stamboul Sketches: Encounters in Old Istanbul, Murphy’s is the latest of Eland’s fabulous collection of travel re-releases.

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