Surfing a narrative as swift and treacherous as a Himalayan river, Alex and his brother James pursure their kidnapped parents into the jungles of southwest Nepal, bonding over very many very lucky escapes and a good dose of samosas, milky tea and practical jokes. An enjoyable, educational read for all ages, this beautifully illustrated eco-adventure is an authentic contemporary portrayal of and call to action for a country beset by ecological and moral challenges.
It seems it is not enough for Jane Wilson-Howarth to have got completely under the skin of an entire country because in ‘Snowfed Waters’ she also manages to create a refreshing and ingenious plot mechanism that propels the reader at light-speed through a wholly absorbing story about self-awareness, redemption and ultimately personal salvation.
Each chapter contains the separate viewpoints of the six main characters; which provide the reader with a prismatic glance at the events as they unfold. Cultures clash from the start but as acceptance and understanding grow, the viewpoints become more unified. It is a skilful technique used subtly and with great verve. The book fairly fizzes with witty dialogue, unexpected plot twists and is set against the ravishingly described backdrop of the Himalayas.
As principle protagonist Sonia (a burnt-out Cambridge teacher in search of change) finds her western sensibilities challenged by what she initially sees as a primitive, unhygienic and dangerous country, her Nepali hosts are equally dumbfounded by her inability to simply enjoy her life. As the story develops, we see her growth not only through her eyes but also from the viewpoint of her hosts and new friends. This enriches our understanding of her self-discovery enormously.
Jane Wilson-Howarth’s understanding of Nepalese life is borne not only from her extended time living in the country but from her empathetic understanding of what ‘culture’ means and how it manifests itself both to those living in a place and to the bewildered outsiders who visit Nepal. Her great skill is to have taken a place she knows intimately and to have re-populated it with a cast of characters who leap from the pages into your memory. This book is far more than ‘travel literature’, it is a heartfelt examination of what it means to be an outsider – either as an individual or an entire nation.
An enthralling and absorbing read (it’s also a book begging to be filmed!)
The Magic Middle Finger
I love the setting of this story – it’s so sumptuously told. The sights, smells and sounds are vivid and evocative, it completely took me away while I was reading it.
Chasing the Tiger
In this second of the Alex and James adventures the story begins with the boys and their parents imprisoned by Maoists in Nepal, in filthy conditions. As they are being moved to a remote hideout, the boys escape and, with their friend Bim, they try to follow their parents, hoping to free them. This is a journey fraught with danger not only from the angry Maoists but also from wild animals and hostile conditions. Wonderfully accurate black and while illustrations by Betty Levene bring the story (and the animals) to life for the reader.