Mark Johnson. New South Wales Regional Meeting.

Sabine Erica’s The Silk Road  is a good example of that maxim to do with not judging books by covers, or to be more specific in this case, what others may write on back covers.

The Silk Road is described on its back cover as much more than a diary about the challenges of travel to far and away places; and so it is, because this book is very engaging, very enjoyable, and takes the reader on a journey with the author. What it is not is that list of descriptions given by the back cover, such as: a series of insightful reflections on landscape, history, architecture, the clash of culture of religions, language and literature, ethnicity and nationality and so on in much similar grandiose vein.

A very small book of just over sixty pages should not have been made to carry the weight of so much hype. It was initially off-putting because it makes this small and delightful work seem pretentious. Not even the picture of Sabine and her loyal and attentive dog Thomas (also on the back cover) eased my initial concern about what was inside the book.

Yes there are small excerpts of historical background to various locations, along with a peppering of cultural commentary, and some free sharing of rhetorically questioning comments, but The Silk Road is not a dense small tome of academic compression and detachment, and thank God for that, because what it is is a delightful ‑ if at times very abbreviated ‑ journeying and seventieth birthday celebration with Sabine, her life companion Myra, and travelling companions Bob and Bob, from Beijing to Istanbul.

Sabine’s ‘voice’ is very clear and very immediate, drawing the reader into each scene. Written largely in first person narrative so much then becomes intimate, with Sabine addressing the reader directly as if speaking to you as a fellow traveller, following her thought line as her narrative finger points to each passing scene and situation.The Silk Road is a vivid book in its simple narrative style, enhanced by the selection of pictures, not just of scenes, but of people, of friends, all contributing to the intimacy of this little celebratory book.

The humour is very evident too with references to mangled translations which are hilarious, photographs making very clear the authors thoughts on cultural demands, reactions to various individuals, and even a thorough-going discussion about that bane of travel experience – bathroom facilities.

After only a couple of hours I happily finished The Silk Road and turned again to the back cover noting that the picture of Thomas and Sabine says much more about this refreshing book than any needful publicity caption.

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