A memoir of a trip to Laos

I promised a different post next. I promised to reveal the identity of the mystery woman. I lied. Not intentionally, of course, but it seemed better to change the order of these posts and allow a little more time for anyone who still wants to join in and guess who she is.

Jo Carroll doesn’t lie. She tells factual accounts of her travels, and believe me they don’t need any embellishment. But they still need to be written so as to engage the reader, and Jo certainly succeeds in that. And sometimes she changes names and biographical details to protect the people she’s writing about. This is no secret. Jo writes about doing this in her new book, Bombs and Butterflies. After reading it, I understand that some of the people she meets need to be protected.

There are two main reasons why I prefer to read about Jo’s travels than to experience them for myself. One refers to things I’d rather not do; the other to things I find hard to do.

I’m not an intrepid explorer. True, I spent about three weeks in Nagaland, in north east India, an area that doesn’t see a vast influx of tourists. True, the conditions I encountered there were far from luxurious. But I went with a group. The only trips I’ve been on alone are those in which I’ve gone to visit people.

I couldn’t imagine going alone; I’d be afraid of being lonely for one thing. And there are things I would hate. Being woken up by a large rat, for instance, as Jo was. But Jo takes all these things in her stride and I can sit back in the comfort of my home and enjoy reading about them. I have read her previous book, Hidden Tiger, Raging Mountain, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed by this one.

What I would find hard to do is to connect to all the strangers Jo meets along the way, locals and other travellers, whose stories make Jo’s books so fascinating. While she tells of needing time alone, she’s clearly a very friendly person, too.

And she’s a wonderful writer. She knows what to include and what to leave out, and how to keep the reader interested with humour and fascinating details. And I love the short chapters, which make this book convenient for reading on a train, in bed or in a doctor’s waiting room.

In short, this is a book worth reading. Want to know how to get it? The information is here.

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