this is the book for YOU! I bought it as a general interest travel narrative, and it does work as that, although at some points better than others.
Part 1 struck me as the least "general interest" section, as the author spends much of that time alone on the high seas in the middle of nowhere, although there are (eventually) stops in the Marquesas, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, etc.
Part 2 is largely concerned with Australia, both sightseeing on land, and sailing its vast coast, finishing up with the trip to Arabia, with a lengthy stopover in Sri Lanka.
Part 3 covers the most in terms of miles - Arabia to California, via the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Panama Canal. Starts out with adventures in avoiding pirates (he never really is threatened, though friends have a lot less luck) from Arabia to Israel, through the Suez Canal. Stops, including sightseeing trips, in Israel, Italy, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, and Trinidad, until the not-so-simple Canal crossing, and home to San Diego.
Michael's a really nice fellow, without being particularly sappy about it, making lots of friends along the way; he uses the convention of referring to them by their boats' names ("Beatrice" etc.) and as he meets up with some after a long absence from the story, that did get a tad confusing at times. He's also quite a foodie, so it wasn't exactly hardtack and sardines for him; at one point he has so much surplus fish he makes a quantity of "fish jerky" out of it all! He did a terrific job in picking out the highlights of the trip, so things never really dragged for me, as I'd feared they might.
Parker's narration works quite well in terms of maintaining enthusiasm, although I wish he'd done (more) prep work in getting place names correct, as at times it was almost painful to hear him get some wrong.
Final verdict: definitely recommended!
Graham Greene, along with his cousin Barbara and a host of bearers, traveled through Sierra Leone and Liberia in the mid-thirties; seventy five years later, Tim Butcher followed their route (as closely as he could) to see what traces of their journey remain.
At first, I felt that the story seemed a bit padded, as the actual trip didn't begin until he and his companions left Freetown almost a quarter of the way through the book. Sierra Leone proved a bit tricky to interpret, however, as the Greenes traveled via a railway that hasn't existed for over a generation, leaving Butcher to give impressions as best he could.
The second half of the book, through Liberia with a brief cut through Guinea (as the Greenes had done) proved more ... swashbuckling, in that Liberia's chaos, while initially directed at the Americo-Liberian elite, quickly became a violent tale of inter-tribal conflict. Thus, the author manages to work in the Greenes' experience, as well as his own, filtered by the stories and visual evidence of warfare.
Barbara Greene's book is harder to get a hold of, but I'd recommend (at least) reading Graham's book before tackling this one. A strong interest in travel narrative, or a background in West African history, would come in handy as well. Very good narration.
I'll admit I did tune out at times when the author went on for a while about minor historical points along the course of the river. However, the narrator does an outstanding job, personalizing the story so vividly that I still can't believe Graves didn't read it himself.
I really fell for the antics of his traveling companion ("The Passenger").
This book is unlike any other I have read with the possible exception of the Lewis & Clark Journals. This couple undertook in 2001 a solo three-year walking tour from the southern tip of Africa to the Sea of Galilee. The book covers the first half of the journey. It is full of highly interesting encounters and candid conversations with the wide variety of people they met (mostly by chance) and who offered them hospitality during their trek. It was not without dangers (wild animals, bouts with malaria, and lawless regions the main ones), but mainly featured open and friendly encounters with people they met, even in the poorest regions of Africa.
They share conversations in which their hosts shared serious complaints about many of the corrupt and short-sighted policies being pursued by certain of the African governments, that of Zimbabwe being the worst example. They also provide their own critical and at other times awestruck (occasionally, somewhat melodramatic in my view) reactions to the sites and regions they visit.
While an unusual and interesting story, given the span of time, people and geography it covers, I gave the book four stars instead of five because I think it will be of most interest to readers who have a particular interest in visiting Africa (my wife and I are planning a visit there this year).