In a previous post, I wrote about being excited about being invited to join Amazon Vine, a program that provides reviewers with free copies of books in exchange for reviews. Well, it is almost the end of my first month as a member, and I ordered the maximum four books, and have read and reviewed three of them so far. One of them was for the book ‘To a Mountain in Tibet’ by Colin Thubron. It is just as it seems to be–a travel memoir of a journey to Kailas. As promised, anything travel-related that I review for Amazon will also be posted here. So, without further ado, I bring you my review…enjoy!
This is not a book about traveling ‘to a mountain in Tibet’. This is a book about life, and death…and everything in between.
I must admit that on first read, I was not excited by this book. I deemed it ‘not my kind of memoir’. And yes, the language is rather flowery. If you like flowery language, you’ll like this book. But even if you are like me (and don’t), you’ll still enjoy ‘Mountain’.
I’ve never traveled to this part of the world. Now I very much would like to do so, but only if I can take someone like Thubron with me. As you follow him on his journey, you learn about everything from the flora and fauna of the areas he passes through, to the social, political, and spiritual history of the peoples and places explored, to his own relationship with his mother and father. Even better, all of these aspects are woven together brilliantly.
Oddly, parts of ‘Mountain’ read like high fantasy, no small feat for a work of travel memoir. I loved the line ‘I have too much imagined these mountains as mine’, and at one point the phrase ‘carved from the living basalt’–in reference to the Kailasa temple at Ellora (itself sounding high fantasty-ish)–drips with fantasy-writer-charm. Of course, the undertones of high fantasy were not entirely due to the place names, but the place names do help–did Tolkein ever travel to Kailas?
One aspect I did find difficult was the ability to visualize places I cannot even imagine. Much of Thubron’s work is, obviously, landscape description–but having absolutely no reference point I found it difficult. Thus, I found myself frequently resorting to Google Image searches. Was this a negative aspect of the book? Absolutely not. I’ve now learned about the geography of a part of the world of which I’d previously been unaware. The only negative part is how difficult (impossible?) it would be for me to actually visit Tibet myself some day.
If you are even thinking about picking up this book, do it. You won’t be disappointed. You will be moved, inspired, awed, sometimes shocked–at one point I actually almost cried–but definitely not disappointed.