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!
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").
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.
mostly nonfiction listener
I just read Vowell's new book, The Wordy Shipmates, and loved it so much I immediately picked up the The Partly Cloudy Patriot. If Assassination Vacation was available unabridged at Audible I read that next.
Partly Cloudy Patriot is good fun....but nowhere near as smart or well developed as her latest book. You can see her maturity as a writer between the books, as Vowell is finding her voice in Patriot. In Shipmates, Vowell moves from a humorist (or essayist) to a historian.
Still....I enjoyed spending a few hours with Vowell - and came away feeling better about my own geek, history loving cred.