Synopses & Reviews
Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana are among the least-known places in South America: nine hundred miles of muddy coastline giving way to a forest so dense that even today there are virtually no roads through it; a string of rickety coastal towns situated between the mouths of the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers, where living is so difficult that as many Guianese live abroad as in their homelands; an interior of watery, green anarchy where border disputes are often based on ancient Elizabethan maps, where flora and fauna are still being discovered, where thousands of rivers remain mostly impassable. And under the lens of John Gimlette brilliantly offbeat, irreverent, and canny these three small countries are among the most wildly intriguing places on earth.
On an expedition that will last three months, he takes us deep into a remarkable world of swamp and jungle, from the hideouts of runaway slaves to the vegetation-strangled remnants of penal colonies and forts, from "Little Paris" to a settlement built around a satellite launch pad. He recounts the complicated, often surprisingly bloody, history of the region including the infamous 1978 cult suicide at Jonestown and introduces us to its inhabitants: from the worlds largest ants to fluorescent purple frogs to head-crushing jaguars; from indigenous tribes who still live by sorcery to descendants of African slaves, Dutch conquerors, Hmong refugees, Irish adventurers, and Scottish outlaws; from high-tech pirates to hapless pioneers for whom this stunning, strangely beautiful world ("a sort of X-rated Garden of Eden") has become home by choice or by force.
In Wild Coast, John Gimlette guides us through a fabulously entertaining, eye-opening and sometimes jaw-dropping journey.
"Travel writer Gimlette offers a rare glimpse of a forgotten region: the formerly European colonies of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana, commonly known as the Guianas. As he describes his travels from coast to forest, through what he depicts as a muddy, rotting, stinking, stagnant landscape, he quickly realizes that Sir Walter Raleigh's 1596 account of bountiful riches might have bent the truth. The first quarter of the book reads like a Devil in the White City-style true crime account as he searches for the ghosts of the Reverend Jim Jones' Jamestown massacre of 1977. Gimlette then follows the footsteps of such notables as novelist Evelyn Waugh and V.S. Naipul, encountering natives as well as a sociologically-intriguing population 'descended from people who'd rather have been somewhere else.' Turning his attention to linguistics, Gimlette discuses certain humorous facts about the Surinamese language, 'Talkie-talkie,' in which 'I love you' translates as 'Mi lobi yu.' Though Gimlette provides occasional humor, he lacks Bill Bryson's ability to provoke a belly laugh. The balance between history and travelogue would be an asset to curious travelers, but doesn't make a good case as to the appeal of doing so. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"To the admirably (or alarmingly) fearless Gimlette, the Guianas remain a terrain of matchless allure....He has written a spirited historical, political and personal travelogue guaranteed to arouse the adventurous reader's wanderlust....It offers a gorgeously vivid depiction of one of the last untamed places on the planet." New York Times Book Review
"An engaging odyssey...Gimlette shows the region to be endlessly fascinating, if often in a dark way, [and] summarizes sweeps of history with a quinine-dry wit....His books manage the neat trick of making the globe feel supremely vast and mysterious once again. He does this in part by writing a narrative that sounds as if it had been penned by an Edwardian explorer you can almost envision his pith helmet but also by crafting a superb travelers' tale in which yesterday has far more ballast and heft than the fleeting happenings of today." Wall Street Journal
"Wild Coast is funny, intelligent, revelatory." Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland
"A wonderfully entertaining account of a journey through one of the world's least-known places....Gimlette, an insatiably curious storyteller, revels in the strange mix of people and traditions ....Amid vivid descriptions of torrential rivers and golden grasslands that are home to some of the planets' largest ants, otters, and fish, the author recalls encounters with a stunning variety of intriguing characters....Colorful and immensely readable." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"A completely fascinating book. It opens up a forgotten corner of the world with tremendous flair and shrewd observation." William Boyd, author of Any Human Heart
As he did for Paraguay in At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig
(“a raucous blend of history, travelogue, and guide”—Condé Nast Traveler),
John Gimlette now does for South America’s far-flung Guianese coast.
Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana are among the least-known places in South America and, in John Gimlette’s hands, among the most wildly intriguing. He takes us deep into this remote edge of the world, vividly describing the stilt-sitting coastal towns; torrential, often impassable rivers (there are literally thousands); and forests so dense that even today there are no roads through them. He reveals the region’s surprisingly bloody history—including the infamous cult suicide at Jonestown—and introduces us to its inhabitants: from the world’s largest ants to fluorescent purple frogs; from indigenous tribes who still live by sorcery to descendants of African slaves, Dutch conquerors, Hmong refugees, Irish adventurers, and Scottish outlaws; from high-tech pirates to hapless pioneers for whom this stunning, strangely beautiful world (“a sort of X-rated Garden of Eden”) has become home by choice or by force.
A fabulously entertaining, eye-popping journey.
About the Author
John Gimlette has won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize and the Wanderlust Travel Writing Award, and he contributes regularly to The Times (London), The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, and Condé Nast Traveller. When not traveling, he practices law in London.