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On the Plain of Snakes

Narrated by: Joseph Balderrama
Length: 19 hrs and 58 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The master of contemporary travel writing, Paul Theroux, immerses himself in the beautiful and troubled heart of modern Mexico. 

Nogales is a border town caught between Mexico and the United States of America. A 40-foot steel fence runs through its centre, separating the prosperous US side from the impoverished Mexican side. It is a fascinating site of tension, now more than ever, as the town fills with hopeful border crossers and the deportees who have been caught and brought back. And it is here that Paul Theroux will begin his journey into the culturally rich but troubled heart of modern Mexico. 

Moving through the deserts just south of the Arizona border, Theroux finds a place brimming with charm, yet visibly marked by both the US border patrol looming to the north and mounting discord from within. Attending local language and culinary schools, driving through the country and meeting its people, Paul Theroux gets under the skin of Mexico. 

From the writer praised for his 'curiosity and affection for humanity in all its forms' (New York Times Book Review), On the Plain of Snakes is an urgent and mesmerising exploration of a region in conflict. 

©2019 Paul Theroux (P)2019 W. F. Howes Ltd

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A pedantic, poorly narrated, 20 hour lecture

There's a good 3-4 hours of travel writing worth reading here. Of course, that leaves 15-16 hours of, at times, mind-numbing lecture and political diatribe. And unless you're a masochist, or writing a paper on contemporary Mexican literature, do yourself a favor and skip the entire chapter "Mexicans on Mexico."

The only reason I stayed through this to the end is that I lived or traveled in Mexico for over 25 years, and was willing to wade through the tangled jungle of politics and bad narration in order to reach the occasional scenic view of the land.

A good narrator might have improved this book, but we'll never know. This guy has the strangest, disconnected rhythm to his reading, slicing and dicing his sentences, and frequently mispronouncing words. If I had cared enough, I might have made an inventory of his mispronunciations, but it would be a substantial book all by itself.

For a book on Mexico, they could surely have found a narrator who knows how to pronounce Mexican Spanish. There are plenty of Spanish speakers available. Before you think I'm just being picky, even Taco Bell knows that "taco" is pronounced tahko, not tack-o. Seriously - tack-o? And what's with the "zed"for the Z in EZLN (acronym for - ejercito Zapatista de liberación nacional)? That's neither Spanish nor gringo English.

If you like being lectured to, or just need a sleep aid, then this may be the right pick for you. If not, move on, and find something more interesting, and better narrated.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful