books of the week

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The Independent Travel
Travels in a Europe Restored (Boydell & Brewer, pounds 19.50 hardback) by Eric Elstob.

Mr Elstob is not exactly a writer nor a traveller, but neither is he a totally accidental bystander. In fact he was an investment manager specialising in European affairs at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and has written this book out of sheer enthusiasm for the changes he has witnessed. Don't open this book in search of characters or lively dialogue, though. A lot of it is personal comment on subjects ranging from Czech countryside to Lithuanian nightlife, without the authority one would like.

The Spice Islands Voyage (Little Brown, pounds 20 hardback) by Tim Severin.

Here is one of those lucky people who spend their lives planning and executing unique adventures, in order to write about them. Tim Severin has already crossed the Pacific on a raft, ridden across Mongolia in search of Genghis Khan, and captained an Arab Dhow from Oman to China. For his latest trick, he has built a replica of the boat that carried 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace round the Spice Islands of Indonesia - and gone out to sail the same route in his wake.

One motive for the trip was to restore Wallace's reputation to a comparable status to that of Charles Darwin. Another, perhaps more pertinent given the state of Indonesia today, was to witness the environmental degradation that has occurred since Wallace's travels 140 years ago.

Africa - the South (Lonely Planet, pounds 15.99) by David Else, Jon Murray and Deanna Swaney.

The latest batch of southern Africa guidebooks from Lonely Planet is headed by this 1,000-page volume which covers everything from Malawi and Zambia to the Cape. But I like the section which advises travellers how to behave when attacked by the various wild animals. When charged by rhinos simply step aside at the last moment; when camping, don't leave oranges in your tent, or elephants will come for them. What they don't say is how to defend yourself when pounced on by a big cat from a tree (hold out both arms straight, catch the beast's front paws, then open your arms. The animal's heart will split).

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