Reviewed by Janet Mills for November 2013
The Last Train to Zona Verde – My Ultimate African Safari by Paul Theroux. The first time Paul Theroux ever visited Africa he was a 22-year old in the Peace Corps. Now after 50 years he once again set out to renew his pleasure in the wild continent. Things were much different now. His plan was to begin in South Africa staying along the west coast to Namibia, then Angola and with luck on to the Congo. He had no itinerary and could stay as long as he liked in each country. In South Africa he found much poverty along with wealth. He rode a bus into Namibia. He found that UNESCO had planned a one-day discussion on “Preserving a Cultural Heritage.” It was to be held in a little town near the border of Botswana which was 454 miles east of Windhoek. The only way to arrive in Tsumkwe was by land transportation. The roads starting out as paved roads ended up going over barren land. It was the settlement of hunter-gatherers who had lived in the area for over 40,000 years. After the meeting he had to return to Windhoek to resume his trip, but before that he made a trip to a very exclusive camp called Abu Camp. The camp was placed on the edge of a landlocked river delta and was a watery mirage and home to elephants. The camp had only six tents but they were more like canvas bungalows on big platforms with showers, tubs and double beds with mosquito nets. The cap was a friend of Paul’s and had invited him to ride an elephant. It was a great experience. Afterwards, Theroux returned to the trip following the ocean north. There were many areas of poverty and even worse areas in Angola. Both countries are very wealthy with oil and diamond exports but the money is kept in a very few hands and most people are ignored. Few schools have been built and the hunger is tremendous. The poor were everywhere. Angola is owned by the Portuguese and has been used as a prison colony. Paul found that his credit card had been stolen in Namibia and the duplicate had charged over 100 transactions totaling $48,000. He was short of money and decided he would have to cut his traveling short. He had planned to take the train to Zona Verde and he didn’t want to miss this trip. You’ll have to read the book to find out if he did make the trip. This book is well worth your time to read, particularly if you are planning an African trip.
Duel With the Devil – the Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery by Paul Collins. Hamilton and Burr were both top lawyers in the early days in New York City. Waging a fierce battle for control of the country in 1800, Hamilton was allied with John Adams, the second president of the young republic called the Federalists. Burr was the leader of a party called the Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson. The first chapters were an interesting time in the early life of the city. Burr had been working to bring water to the city from a well in Lispenard’s Meadow, using hollowed out logs to send the water into the city. There were many boarding houses and one was owned and run by a Quaker family named Ring. A young boarder named Elma Sands lived in the Ring’s house and was found dead in the Manhattan well. Another boarder, a carpenter, also lived in the Ring’s house and was accused of killing her. The two attorneys facing each other were Hamilton and Burr. You will have to read the book to find out how the trial ended. You probably also remember how Hamilton died.
Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic by Nora Gallagher. This is a memoir written in detail of the author’s battle to fight a disease of the eye. The optic nerve was inflamed and if not treated Nora could have lost her sight. After about a year of seeking help from numerous doctors, with the situation worsening, Nora made the decision to go to the Mayo Clinic if they would accept her as a patient. By this time in her life she called her seeking OZ. At long last, the doctors at Mayo Clinic found an answer and a way to treat it. If you’ve had a disease that seems to not respond to treatment, you will enjoy this book.