Something of a mixed bag for me, this chaotic comedy of errors and enlightenment. On the one hand, I’m a big fan of (the awesomely named) Merlin Franco, and I love his intelligent, insightful and wit-laden writing style; on the other, I wasn’t keen on this particular tale, which I would describe as a fictional travel memoir. I would say this is one for its audience – and a good one at that, which perhaps may not be clearly reflected in my writing; fans of this book will surely be those who love to read about travelling in the Far East, and perhaps those of Indian heritage, who appreciate the opportunity to endearingly laugh at themselves. Personally, I’m not necessarily a fan of travel books anyway, particularly those involving the Far East, but that may simply because I read so many of them. If you do like comic mishap, globe-trotting adventures, though, I can promise you this will be right up your street.
Merlin is a wonderful writer, pleasant and entertaining to read, whilst being joyous literal company. Richard Parker himself is, too, in a way, in his innocent naivete, simply trying to find himself through dubious spiritual guidance – and maybe pick up a woman or two while he’s at it. I can’t say the same for the other characters in the book, though; for example, I suspect Merlin has a particular fondness for the instrumental Su, which I just didn’t share. The wit is very funny and there is a great deal to be learnt from this book about Asian culture – particularly religious harmony and disharmony, and caste social politics among the Indian race, both in India and abroad. Merlin has surely travelled the region extensively, as he knows a great deal about the countries featured, including India, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and probably more.
I say probably because I found the adventures to be blurring together after a while; there isn’t so much a linear plot in this book as a collection of mishaps and encounters. The humour is very funny, but again I found that much of it could be missed, as it is lost in the vast narrative. For, without wishing to be too harsh, I can sum up the biggest drawback for me in this book: it simply felt too long; key moments, including the most humorous ones, faded into long episodes of scattered monologue and dialogue.
But Merlin is fantastic. He is well knowledgeable, an enviable intellectual and philosopher, and a cracking humourist, too, with a sharp yet dry with – I’d love to read another from him and learn more from his cultural expertise; I just feel next time he could be more ruthless with the word count, and really let the best bits pop.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: merlin-franco india asia cultural travel fiction comedy