Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Book Review: In Praise of Savagery by Warwick Cairns

This is a book I read just before I started my blog, and it's about time I got round to adding it!

The author met and befriended explorer Wilfred Thesiger in his later years. Thesiger extended Cairns an invitation to visit his home in Africa and he decided to take up the offer, and do some exploring of his own with a couple of friends while he was there.

As a young man Thesiger led an expedition along the Awash River in Ethiopia, a trip which previous foreigners had failed to survive. He obviously did and the book switches between the two journeys.
The parallel journeys are interesting and provided glimpses into the culture of the tribes the two men encountered but I felt that the author tried to fit too much material in, glossing over what could have been more interesting and provided more colour to the picture of their trips, yet spent time musing on things that didn't really add to the book.

There were also some drastic changes in pace, drawing some things out that I felt didn't deserve that much attention then coming to breakneck conclusions. It wasn't my sort of humour and for me there wasn't enough for it to be an interesting commentary on tribal life and relative values, nor was there a strong enough plot for it to be a great novel, and not enough about the country and people to be a good travelogue. While there were some interesting thoughts on whether we in the developed world are the poorer for it again it wasn't considered in enough depth. Perhaps this book is trying to be too many things. It was good  enough to keep me interested but I doubt I'll read it again and I wouldn't recommend it.

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