The Lost Girls: three friends, four continents, one unconventional detour around the world by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, Amanda Pressner

Lost Girls Book Cover

This book follows the around-the-world (ATW) trip of the three authors. The women were friends living in New York that greatly enjoyed traveling. On one backpacking trip in Argentina, the talked about how much they wanted to take a year off and back pack around the world. When they got back to the city, all their lives began to show signs of strain and the need for drastic change – changing jobs, boyfriend issues, not performing well at work. So they follow through on their plan and book their trip. They travel through Peru, Brasil, Kenya, India, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia. Throughout their trip they hike the Inca trail, volunteer, train to be yogis, bungee jump, and surf, just to name a few activities.

The book is a series of remembrances (I don’t really want to say journal entries because they aren’t) of the different places they visit. Each chapter is written by a different woman, sometimes in the same place as the previous chapter or in a different one. Each chapter focuses on the experiences the girls had and the emotional journey each went through on the trip. They talk about funny accidents, depressed spirits, cultural awakenings, fighting among themselves, and the influence each place had on them. Through it all you connect with the women on a personal level. It’s a little hard to tell the difference between them at first as you read, but as you move through the book, you are able to tell who’s writing the chapter based on the emotions, fears, loves, and desires of the writer. You learn bits about each country they travel to, but the bulk of the story focuses on how their experiences changed, influenced, or validated themselves and their feelings in some way.

For a travel novel, I would have liked to learn more about the countries they visited. They move through countries quite quickly, but spending at least a week in a country would give you plenty to discuss about the culture. They, unfortunately, only give bits and pieces that link to the story they are telling. Some of the emotional issues they were working through got a little old to hear about after a while because it was the same issue over and over. For the most part, however, they kept the drama and over-use of emotion to a minimum. There was a lot of emotional discovery and decision making that women in their twenties are going to have an easy time relating to. Also, the variety in personalities makes it easy to connect with at least one of the women. For me, I was able to connect with Holly the best.

You learn quite a bit about working as a writer in New York, as well as living in New York from the book. You learn about the emotional struggles women face. You learn interesting tidbits about backpacking, hostels, and traveling for an extended period of time. You pick up small things about the different countries they visit. You discover the kindness of strangers and joy in embracing differences.

For a travel memoir, it was really good. For a book about culture and traveling, eh, I know there are better books. For a book about women, it’s very good without being filled with drama, drama, drama. I can say that I enjoyed reading it, but will probably not read it again. I would recommend though to anyone looking for a light book on travel or an interesting book for a change of pace. Also, anyone interested in travel or culture would most likely enjoy it. Probably, not a great read for a guy though, they’d most likely find it boring.

My rating:

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The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

Painted Veil B.C.

I decided to read this book because it sounded like an interesting self-discovery book. I can’t say that I was disappointed, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. I would label this book a classic, primarily because of its language and content. I actually found it was quite interesting although I’m not quite sure why.

The story follows Kitty Fane. She is a young (mid-20s) woman living with her husband Walter in the English colony in Hong Kong, China in the 1920s. Kitty had only married her husband in order to be married before her younger sister, and there is no love in her heart for her husband. She has an affair that her husband found out about. He gave her two choices he divorces her (leaving her ruined socially) or she goes with him to a remote Chinese village to help fight a cholera epidemic. After fighting with her lover, she consents to go to the village.

When she gets to the village, she is in a severe depression and the rest of the story is how she comes to view herself and those around her. There is the local English Customs official for the town that she finds herself in company with a lot, her husband Walter, and the local nuns that she spends the bulk of her time with and help to shape her ideas. The nuns in particular have a profound impact on her as she slowly changes her views of the world.

I think this book was a wonderful cultural read. You learned quite a bit about the English in China in the early 1900s. There’s prejudice and racism. Kitty in particular is quite racist, but for the time the language and opinions wouldn’t have been at all unusual. The first third of the book is Kitty having and being caught about her affair. After that, you move into rural china where a lot of the interesting aspects of the book are. You learned about nuns and why they become missionaries and how they are happy in their work. They reference traveling by chair all the time. I was correct in what I thought that meant, but was still surprised by this mode of travel. Here is the chair that is described. It is carried by collies (indentured servants) from the front and back.

 

Overall I thought it was an interesting read. I can’t say way in particular I thought it was good, but it was just the general impression of writing style, language, culture, and emotional growth. I can’t say Kitty grew by leaps and bounds, but she did grow some. I liked that the romance scenes happened ‘off stage’ by being alluded to and then a scene change. I enjoyed the language and writing style as well. The chapters are extremely short, some only a page or two long. It made it easy to stop as needed.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys classical fiction. Also, anyone interested in early 1900s China or the English colonization of China in that time frame might enjoy this, as long as they keep in mind it is still fiction and the story focuses on the emotions and life of a young woman. I’m giving it three cheese slices only because I think this is a one and done read. I can’t think that I’ll go back and read it, but it was an enjoyable read the first time through.

My rating:

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