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Tales from the Torrid Zone


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About the Author

Alexander Frater has contributed to various UK publications - Miles Kington called him 'the funniest man who wrote for Punch since the war' - and as chief travel correspondent of the Observer, he won an unprecedented number of British Press Travel Awards. He lives in London though, whenever time and money allow, is likely to be found skulking deep in the hot, wet tropics.


Frater, author of Chasing the Monsoon, was born in Vanuatu, where his mother had run two schools and his father, a "misinari dokta," had taught and practiced medicine. His grandfather had been a much-revered Presbyterian missionary on nearby Paama Island. Not everyone born and bred in the tropics likes tropical life; many envy the seasons or schools or health services of the temperate world. But just as church bells in the tropics have a unique resonance, so Frater himself has the human version of "tropical resonance." Everything about life in the tropics-food, diseases, insects, religion, rivers, language, drink, forestry, human sweat-is endlessly fascinating for him, reminding him of a story he heard traveling downstream from Mandalay, or filming in Mozambique, or riding a bus into Rarotonga. He finds the smallest details of tropical life so entertaining, he barely notices the attendant inconveniences. Thus he makes the insects eating his grandfather's book-selectively consuming its constituent parts, "the spine's sweet glue and crunchy muslin, biscuity strawboard covers, a confit of gold leaf licked from the titles"- sound like regular gourmands. Frater's final tale, of how he brought a grand English bell to his grandfather's church on Paama, forms a fitting grace note to an outstanding memoir. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

A former chief travel correspondent for London's Observer, Frater (Chasing the Monsoon) returns to the hot, wet regions of the earth known as the tropics, where he was born and grew up as the grandson of a missionary, Maurice Frater. His story begins and ends with his eventful quest for a special bell for a church memorializing his influential grandfather on the small Melanesian island of Paama. As Frater circles the globe, he visits Vanuatu, Burma, Oman, the Amazon River, the Cook Islands, the Serengeti, the Comoro Islands, and dozens of other tropical spots. Like a jungle vine, his stories lead in all directions, but they are entwined: they touch on the conflicts between old ways and new, the young and the old, the ordinary and the eccentric, colonized and postcolonial life, obscure and well-known islands, unspoiled beauty and desolation, traditional customs and tourism, and the disease and hazards of the land as well as its simple bounty. In this beautifully written book, Frater examines people and places from a detached perspective, but his thoughts and conversations reveal the torrid zone on a very personal level. The reader can almost feel the stifling wet heat. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Coll. Lib., Rindge, NH Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Lyrical [and] moving. . . . Part memoir, part travel yarn, a hymn to the solar lands." --"The New York Times Book Review" "Entertaining. . . . This world is literally teeming with natural wonders, local characters, and wild stories." --"The" "Boston Globe" "A book to treasure on many levels. . . . Be prepared to be fascinated." --"The Washington Times" 'Fascinating. . . . A diverting, loose-limbed tour of the earth's hot zones. . . . Mr Frater, a genial tour guide and a stylish writer, makes excellent company." --"The New York Times"

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