Alexander Frater: Tales from the Torrid Zone Travels in the Deep Tropics



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I must admit that espite being a big fan of travel writing I had never heard of Alexander Frater When my husband bought his book Tales from the Torrid Zone 2nd hand for me I Scandals and Secrets (Hearts Of Fire, didn t know what to expect but feeling like a change after reading about the Arab world Iecided to try it The Tropics are fascinating and it seems that Frater is perfectly placed to write about them because he was born in Iririki Vanuatu and spent his journalistic life travelling to and writing about the tropicsFrater obviously Shooting for a Century did a lot of research and reading of history and sprinkles the text with facts and vignettes However Ion t really enjoy his writing style because of his strange lack of punctuation but I persisted anyway because there are occasional vignettes that make it worthwhile As Sara Wheeler from the Guardian saidAt 388 pages the book could have I, Partridge done with rather artful editing Inconseuentialetails about scary plane rides or the company that provided the wine at an awards Shadow of the Templar dinner should have got the red pencil treatment as should the episode when our man almost gets bitten by aog but Unforgiven (Warriors for the Light doesn t The prose style is breezy and chatty but Frater could have worked harder at weeding out the clich sIt was of course thrilling to read about his experiences in the countries that I have visited or want to visit or have friends from those places Frater makes some sweeping generalizations about the reasons for most tropical nations being unable to move forward economically socially and politically that are amusing to read but could be uite offensive to some readersBy far the best redeeming feature of this sometimes tedious rambling account writing by an older and somewhat fuddyuddy gent is the section on rivers Here finally Frater almost manages to build a narrative thread His journeys Buried Sins (The Three Sisters Inn, down the Irrawaddy and up the were good to read I have been in the far western ian jungle and to Rio Brazil but never actually seen the River Similarly I havereamt of visiting Burma especially now that the reuest not to travel has been lifted I ve attended talks by authors who ve spent a lot of time there I ve bought the Lonely Planet Guide and planned a trip but never made it there yet His interaction with the Burmese princess was fascinating and reminded me of the royalty that I know including an Uzbek prince and the Cambodian princess that my husband worked with If ordinary people find it hard to start again in a new culture imagine how hard it is for ex royaltyThe other interesting section was his trip to Yemen where he encounters a wedding party The men of the grooms family stood on a cliff top on one side of the valley slowly Six Days in Leningrad dancing and shooting their Kalashnikovs while on the other side the women of the brides family climbed onto precipicesressed in heals and fancy clothes and sang to the men on the other side who paid them no attentionMuch of the book is set in Polynesia and while I haven t been there I am not that interested either and Frater failed to generate much interest either He is exceedingly well connected and I enjoyed reading some of his interactions with Chiefs and the arbitrary way that they would connect and then just as uickly The Darkness disconnect from Frater I would have preferred if he spent time writing about the rest of the tropics but perhaps there is less written about Polynesia and obviously it sear to his heart because that s where he s fromPerhaps readers who are much older than me or who grew up it spent a lot of time on Pacific Islands will enjoy this book but otherwise Frater s book is unlikely to appealI first posted this review on my blog When the book arrived in the mail months ago I skimmed through it thinking hmmm looks like it might be kinda Flyboy dull and put it aside I was wrong There was potential for a realragged out story had Frater confined himself to Vanuatu the South Seas nation where he was born and raised his father and grandfather were missionaries there However he oes fully succeed in tying in his experiences in other Torrid locations Africa Burma etc along the way such that the parts make the intended whole When this book is good it s fascinating and when it s not uite up there it s at least interesting Highly recommended Assorted anecdotes on his From one of the most celebrated travel writers at work today a vibrantly observant witty utterly captivating account of a lifetime’s worth of travel between the Tropics of Cancer and CapricornPart memoir part travelogue all passionate appreciation Tales from the Torrid Zone begins in Iririki Alexander Frater’s birthplace On this tiny island in the South Seas republic of Vanuatu his grandfather a Presbyterian missionary from Scotland converted the inhabitants his father ran the hospital and his mother built its first schoolhouse in their front garden And it was on Iririki where on the eve

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Ravel narrative and memoir Frater was born in the south Pacific into a family of missionaries and physicians He has spent a lot of time in the tropics working as a writer and on ocumentary films As he narrates an event will elicit memories from other places and he lapses into anecdotes from there His wiritng style is very lush with complex sentence structure This makes it hard to speed read but I suppose gives a sense of the tropics which Frater stresses is sloooow Although not my favorite I Wolf Creek Homecoming (Wolf Creek did enjoy this unusal narrative and itoes give a strong sense of placeFeb 27 2020 I reread the book forgetting I had read it earlier THis is at least the 3rd time this has occurred while trying to review a new book I guess my memory is sliding fast Here is the later reviewFrater s gather and grandfather were Presbyterian missionaries or physicians in the New Hebrides and he was born there He spent a lot of his life as a writer and correspondent in the tropics This book is centered on his return visits to what is now called Vanuatu He Black Beech and Honeydew: An Autobiography describes the terrain the weather the people and the influence of tourism on the place This is intermingled with reminiscences and tales of his ancestors and other tropic adventures Together the stories of now and then him and they make interesting reading Frater meets a number of locals and as he visits with and interviews them we get a sense of the lives in these regions In addition to Melanesia Frater tells interesting short stories about numerous other tropical areas he has visited particularly in Africa but also in Indochina He writes well with a crisp pace and incorporates a lot of tongue in cheek humor My overall take away is that life in most tropical paradises is in fact miserable The heat and humidity isebilitating the bugs and At the Italians Command disease rampant and the concomitant lethargy just plain boring Give me 40egrees latitude anytime People who travel a lot or Oh Baby! dream about being able to will enjoy this book The only bone I have to pick with it is the way the author will beescribing an event or place and get reminded of another event or place and go off on a tangent to tell about that and then suddenly you are back in the original story without clear Her Rancher Hero (Saddlers Prairie, demarcation between the two Eventually I just gave in to it and let it swirl me around a most pleasurable experience A celebrated author and travel writer whose colleagues include Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux Frater has a large list of publications under his belt in both magazine and novel form This book is a collection of stories which is eual parts narrative non fiction and memoir Frater grew up in the tropics and lived there for theuration of his childhood until he left as a young adult for further education He has subseuently traveled the world over many The Maid of Lorne decades and has amassed innumerable stories tales and memories some of which are retold here As the title suggests this book focuses on those countries which exist in the Torrid Zone and begins with some of Frater s early memories while a child While the novel as a whole is uite interesting with a plethora of assorted tales of countries both known and unknown and a varied cast of characters that have come in and out of Frater s life I found its stream of consciousness tone uite challenging to read Discussions of events in Fiji would lead to a few paragraphs telling a tale from Brazil severalecades earlier which would then igress to random thoughts from a visit to east Africa While the sheer iversity of cultures and tales are fascinating and Frater has a light humorous voice that easily conveys history and anecdotes this is at times How to Become a Virgin disjointed and confusing I finished it feeling I would need to reread it again to simply keep track of it all In the backdrop of the entire novel is the story of how Frater promised to pay for and provide a new church bell to the congregation of the village where he grew up Portions of that storyline are intertwined randomly andoes attempt to provide a scaffolding to the novel as a whole However if Frater had perhaps focused individual chapters on a given country or area instead of the wanton randomness that appears to permeate this work the reader might have been provided with a structured memoi. Inated with and fascinating about the uotidian as he is with the extraordinary But certainly he Dangerous Disguise (Cavanaugh Justice, does not lack for the extraordinaryining with the ueen of Tonga in a leper colony; making his way across tropical Africa and two civil wars in a forty four year old flying boat; The Bosss Baby Surprise delivering a new church bell to a remote Oceanian island From Fiji to Laos Mexico to Peru Senegal to Uganda Taiwan to Indonesia Frater gives us a richlyescribed wonderfully anecdotal endlessly surprising picture of this iverse feverish languorously beautiful world as much a state of mind as it is a geographical phenomen.

Ropical adventures some interesting than others Stories jump around in time and place with little coherence making reading it a iscombobulated experience when you re hot you re hot when you re not you re notIf you ve ever hung out in bars or pubs you ll recognize the type full of stories knows everyone and their cousin too seems too raffishly uaint to be true And probably is If there s such a thing as a chain smoker there s also a chain raconteur Frater starts another story before finishing the first like one of those Chinese boxes inside boxes all made from one piece of ivory his tales lie in the belly of another I have to say his writing is not unpleasant It may keep your interest but I Command Performance developed a serious case ofoubt I like to know if I m reading fact or fiction but I couldn t uite find the line here I know very little about Vanuatu a Pacific island nation where Frater s family lived in colonial Loveknot (Welcome to Tyler, days I couldn t judge the truth of what he said But when Iid know something about the subject the book played very lightly with the facts to be kind Muhammad changed his tune 30 years after he The Perfect Blend died When the Chinese arrived in Japan there was no Shogun and no Zen Buddhism Bartolome e las Casas was entirely ifferent from what we read here The story of Ishii the last of his California tribe is attributed to Levi Strauss The rial was never a Brazilian currency Portugal never controlled half the world though it Wanted (Sealed with a Kiss did a good job on a series of forts and ports from Lisbon to Timor Did any Brazilian governor ever flatten a million suare miles of forest He writes of a Malagasy king with a very long nameeposed by the French but they Rayuan Sang Bos [Seduced By the Boss] deposed a ueen Did the Seychelles have a team at the 1924 Olympics Were there ever leopards in Zanzibar Andude I m only scratching the surface here All right TALES FROM THE TORRID ZONE may be entertaining We can uote the author who says he s writing a series of vignettes fastidiously almost lovingly choreographed p95 Maybe they actually happened too You can read 26 pages about the epic voyage of Ferdinand uiros there s a good section about a boat trip Bachelor to the Rescue (Home to Dover, down the Irrawady in Burma and a trip by flying boat across Africa to Mozambiue at the time of its civil war The foreigners he meets wow you actuallyo meet some besides the Anglo American chappies all have similar accents in English They all Secrets At Maple Syrup Farm drop their articles That s a laugh At last I felt that this book had been bunged together and the author was relying on charm to see him through If you read it you ll judge whethe Alexander Frater was born in Vanuatu and lived there and on other tropical islands until he left to study in Australia His chi A series of essays about many places in the tropics visited by the author who grew up in the South Seas has lived his adult life in the UK but is always happy for the excuse to return to the tropics There were some interesting pieces but it seemed something of a grab bag and the authoridn t shed a lot of light on the places he visited Sometimes I imagine a mildly narcotic vapour Whispers Of The Heart drifts across the Torrid Zone Evanescent as laughing gas created byecaying vegetable matter it s borne along by the trade winds and causes a kind of stupefaction in its victimsAlexander Frater recounts his journeys across the Torrid Zone which is The Dukes Gamble defined as a total of 169 countries and various territories across the globe Per the map these are the areas near the euator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn Born to missionaries in Vanuatu the author has a lovehate relationship with his zone but tackles a project to visit as many of the Torrid Zone locations as possible So we get a travelogue that is combined with a memoir and some history The journeys swing between paragraphs so that one can be inifferent geographic areas within one page While such structure was Unmasking the Marquess (Hold Your Breath, disconcerting at first I adapted as Frater writes some fetching remembrancesFor instance swimming in the tropics is like plunging into warm bouillon The Irrawaddy River in Myanmar engages anyone who sails on her in a running battle of wits It s armchair travel of course but given the current world situation it suited me just fineBook Season Summer rubescentawn skies This is a mix of F his sixth birthday Frater fell victim to “ le coup Let Go de bamboo a mild form of tropical madness for which luckily there is no cure” and which has compelled him again and again to return to the “seeding breeding buzzing barking fluttering suawking germinating growing”eep tropics His travels take him to nearly all of the eighty eight countries encompassed by this remarkable steamy swath of the world He Chatsfields Ultimate Acquisition delveseeply into the history and politics of each nation he visits and into the lives of the inhabitants and of the flora and fauna He is at once tourist explorer and adventurer as fasc.

Alexander Frater has contributed to various UK publications Miles Kington called him the funniest man who wrote for Punch since the war and been a contracted New Yorker writer; as chief travel correspondent of the London Observer he won an unprecedented number of British Press Travel Awards Two of his books Beyond the Blue Horizon and Chasing the Monsoon have been been into major BBC televi