I cannot remember why exactly I ordered this book and added it to my reading list, but I am sure it has something to do with Timbuktu I have always been fascinated with this dreamy African city, whose history and culture is just as deep, rich and heavy as the weight of its name on our tongues I loved it for its mouth filling name I even once said I would call my own daughter Timbuktu It is only when the author Nina Sovich started describing her own obsession with Timbuktu, that I started to realize that there might be in common between myself and her Henceforth, I related to her in some odd and various things.
In the first pages of To the Moon and Timbuktu , it gave me the impression that it is just another self indulgent Eat, Pray, Love, book about a White Woman going on a soul journey in Africa, but I was wrong Nina Sovich memoir on solitary woman travel was different.
This book is about Nina s journey both inwards and outward, she was brutally honest in describing her own inner demons, and how her soul cannot find peace in the comfortable and domesticated Parisian life, with her French husband.
Yet, when she describes her journey through the Sahara of West Africa, giving an eye opening, appealing and detailed account of an area that is often ignored, you can t help but keep reading Her travels enchanted me, how she speaks of the coastal wind and cliffs of Western Sahara About the male adoration of the obese female form and the continued presence of slavery and the abundance of ancient Islamic texts that families pass on from generation to generation, in Mauritania The market in Bamako, Mali, and the traditional Malian dresses And finally how she poetically describes the beauty of the River Niger and the sense of peace when listening to women or children gently reciting verses from the Quran.
The book is a combination of travelogue, memoir, and psychological analysis It is not only about her adventurous and hazardous travels through West Africa, but it is also and mainly about women s need to make it on their own, to find their own strength and learn the hard way how to make tough decisions and stand by those decisions.
Niva Sovich writes beautifully and accurately You can almost feel the heat of the Malian summer sun, smell the scent of the African rains and taste the morning herbal Mauritanian tea All through the time I am reading her book, all I can think and dream about is traveling through Africa.
Full of ennui after deciding that her former exciting life as a nomadic journalist which had been full of travel and adventure has been exchanged for one that is a dull, boring, and stressful 9 to 5 rut spent amongst the bourgeois of Paris, writer Nina Sovich decides to shake things up by traveling through Western Africa for some serious solitude and introspection Feeling stagnant and suffocated living in Paris with a kind, supportive, and tolerant husband, daunted by the prospect of becoming a mother, inspired by pioneering female explorers of Africa Mary Kingsley and Karen Blixen, Ms Sovich travels to remote destinations in Africa, including the mysterious and almost mystical Timbuktu I enjoyed the descriptions of the places she visited and the people she met along the way during her somewhat self indulgent journey of self discovery.
This is a travel memoir of an educated, intelligent American mid 30 s female journalist, who is married to a Frenchman with whom she lives in a Parisian apartment It is a Paris that she describes as being constantly rainy and always grey She hates her job which does sound a nightmare and she is unsettled in her marriage, about the future possibility of motherhood and in where she lives She seems to dislike the French for no other reason it seems than they are so Gallic and French To address all this unhappiness and uncertainty she seeks to regain a sense of her own self and the adventurous life she had before marriage through off piste travel in Saharan Africa As one might expect from a journalist, she writes well but very soon, her personality began to grate on me by saying one thing as a lofty aim but then doing the opposite As an example, she states early on that she wants to seek out and enjoy the company of African Muslim women but then spends most of her time in Mauritania with a Venezuelan male doctor She initially found Mauritania breathtaking but quickly seemed to tire of its people particularly the simple lives of the women She seemed much happier in Mali, though she is eventually disappointed by Timbuktu but then after returning home to Paris and deciding to have a baby she abruptly decides she must return to Africa when 4 months pregnant In Niger she finds the heat overpowering mostly due to her condition and thus spends much of her time with a group of affluent women who have the luxury of effective air conditioning She eventually tears herself away from these women after a bizarre beauty exhibition and so at the end of her Nigerien trip she talks of visiting the Great Mosque of Zinder but then completely glosses over three weeks of what she describes as unforgettable adventure Some of what she describes of her travels is fascinating The coastal wind and cliffs of Western Sahara In Mauritania, the male adoration of the obese female form, the continued presence of slavery and the abundance of ancient Islamic texts that families pass on from generation to generation The market in Bamako, Mali, though this is somewhat spoilt by her musing on why people have children and then when getting measured for some traditional Malian dresses Also describing the beauty of the River Niger when out in the countryside and the sense of peace when listening to women in Niger gently singing verses from the Koran So as you can see, there were plenty of things to keep me reading, but the overarching impression I was left with was not of the people and the beauty and the harsh nature of life in Saharan Africa but rather of a selfish and self indulgent, affluent western woman who moans too much about her lot in life, a life that countless millions might envy not only in the poverty stricken countries she was travelling through but all around the world.
Reading about Africa, travel, women, non fiction Seemed my most enjoyable genre Not sure if this measures up to what I expected Author is ambivalent over so many different things A bit foolhardy IMHO traveling to remote parts of the African continent alone while pregnant She was following the path of some early female travelers, e.
g Mary Kingsley There is a bibliography which feeds my need for where to read of those earlier pioneer women in Africa.
I loved this travel memoir so much the author, Nina Sovich, describes the people and places of Africa not often written about or traveled to like the Western Sahara, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, and Niger, and she does so brilliantly On every page you are suddenly transported to the small Sahara towns, to ghostly Mauritanian cities, and many a town or village darkened by poverty, in than just a visual sense Her writing allows the reader to actually feel the places she visits and understand them, in under the skin sort of ways You don t just see a sand dune, you can feel the hot breeze and the golden glow of the moon and the loneliness or peace the author felt in that moment or feel the terror seize you up in potentially dangerous situations or the way the humidity and dust makes the air heavy and difficult to breathe She doesn t just describe the sites of cities in the present day, but explores the politics, history, and problems wherever she goes as well, incorporating writings from famous travelers who wrote about their journeys through Africa in a different era Most notable of all at least for Nina Sovich is Mary Kingsley Many reviewers on here complain about how she is privileged and how she is taking the wonderful things she has for granted by briefly leaving her kind husband and comfortable but stressful Parisian life, but her writing about these personal affairs is just another reason why I love her book so much She is so absolutely, brutally honest about her inner demons and nagging worries, and the things that she knows shouldn t bother her i.
e comfortable Parisian married life but which she still can t shake off All of her fears and worries are laid out on the table for all to see, and it makes her that much endearing Her quest to find balance in life the balance between security domesticity and free spiritedness is one which I can absolutely connect to, as I think most people could Life is a string of experiences and adventures, and above all, a balancing act, and her travel memoir demonstrates this so well and explains it with such a unique story.
As she tells it, Sovich picked Timbuktu as her ultimate destination because it seemed tangible a place she had heard of but was far off the beaten path I m not sure she is ever really sure what she s looking for some kind of closure, or a next step, or something undefinable I also am guilty of romanticizing Timbuktu, I suppose I came to Timbuktu for the name, and not I too am burdening the town I am bringing my baggage to this sunbaked end of the road town and asking it to provide beauty and meaning I am asking it to be something it is not.
page 218 I remember thinking in Paris that I would pour Africa into me like some kind of magic elixir Then I would be seen Then I would exist I seem now like a naive woman who thought a place or even beauty could make her whole.
page 220 Whatever it is, her first attempt is a quasi failure, perhaps due to lack of planning or unrelenting dissatisfaction an I haven t found it yet or that romanticism clashing with reality She tries again, and though the second try goes better, she perhaps predictably cannot simply return home and be happyMaybe I just miss Africa, I say Maybe, he says, looking at me steadily Though it is possible you are confusing two different issuespage 246 By the end of the book, Sovich seems if not happy with her lot, entirely grounded, content to move forward and accept her wanderlust as a part of her that may not ever entirely be satisfied She is neither broken nor triumphant, but she has grown and, or less, come out ahead.
I had very mixed feelings about this travelogue At times it was very engaging and interesting to hear about Sovich s trek through the western part of Africa Her encounters with locals are eye opening, appealing accounts of an oft ignored area and the detailed information about the different countries kept me listening It s with Sovich s personal journey with which I take issue Poor, poor Sovich lives in Paris with her patient husband and just can t endure it I know that people seek out different places to make a home, but Sovich s detailing of her misery in France put me off She passingly acknowledges her privilege and treats Africa as almost this cure all, mystical place for people like her It feels so very self involved despite the fact that it s brimming with life.
This book reminded me of Andrew Boland s book Dhaka to Dakar, which I read last month Both authors seemed to rush from town to town in Western Africa They would stay a night or two, then move on Staying only in one place long enough to procure the transportation for the next town Nina Sovich is lucky she married a husband that didn t mind her traveling in Africa for months at a time This book is well written, and she does give some interesting descriptions of the countries she traveled through, but I wish she had written about Africa and less about her soul searching.