On the Shores of the Mediterranean

Another failed book club book. Meaning I wanted to read it but didn’t for whatever reason. Maybe this was the last book of  the club, I can’t recall. I had read a fourth of it and now I read it again. It was at times maddeningly too full of too many details and at other times hilarious and inspirational.

It is a story travelogue of an adventurous couple touring the Mediterranean countries in a different time – 1985. No internet and no cell phone, no global unity of mass consumption and frenzied media. The couple were not on a safe organized tour bus but ranging free, relatively fearless and traveling to places and situations that would be dificult to do today. A time that so many young people could never imagine, a time of low budget natural living. There is a sense the world was so big and wonderous.

The book is so charming yet plodding. So. Much. History. There is an overload of backstory, historical figures and people long dead as the author informs us of every historical detail of each place they visit that he somehow retains. This is in the days before Wikipedia , what a contributor he would have been. Many places and many landmarks.  Some I couldn’t help but gloss over, too hard to focus on. Others were so interesting that I found myself researching them on my own. Woven into the clear authoritative voice of an encyclopedia was complete myth as he spoke of Zeus and Aphrodite and Hermes and their lives as if all was factual. It made me question his validity, but overall the lasting impression is the weight of the centuries of lives lived and lost, suffering and cruelty of humankind.

The author was in battle and a war prisoner. He was educated in assumed harshness in an English school. He escaped imprisonment and hid in the countryside and then recaptured. Who knows what he endured, he doesn’t focus on it. Then he worked 17 years in women’s fashion. How much he endured there we will never know. A man overburdened with so much knowledge of the evil of dynasties and suffering innocents yet he has such a love of mankind, a gently open spirit. He is overall optimistic and has an unyielding interest in humanity.

The charming part was the relationship of the couple, moments of hardy marriage.  From exploring the great pyramid in Egypt and noting someone pooped on the floor to hiding from police in a town with no overnight visitors. When he stops lecturing and there is action, it is well worth the wait. The only place this well-worth reading book is dialogue. Fortunately there isn’t much of it but when it occurs is is so fabricated and dull and painful. But everything else from the descriptions of vast eco systems to the joy of a people’s lifestyles is magical, if your attention span has not been too affected by today’s lifestyle.

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