Midweek Mini Reviews #28

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two non-fiction, travel inspired books.

The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays by Lynn Freed
To be honest, The Romance of Elsewhere was a bit of a disappointment for me as I thought the essays would be more about travel. Instead, only the title essay and the one tittle “Letter from London” were truly about travel while the other essays looked at a more general restlessness and not any sense of wanderlust. Featuring all previously published essays, the writings seem to be comes someone of rather a privileged background as shown by the mention of servants and an estate and a few of them had a bit of a condescending tone. That being said, it was fascinating to read Freed’s essay about choice and about her life growing up in South Africa during the apartheid-era and of course I appreciated the first essay which talks about travel and wandering the world in a raw and un-romanticized way. All in all, for the most part, I couldn’t really get into most of the essays. Despite that, however, I found that they were for the most part, well written and more often than not provided some thought-provoking and revealing insights about home and wandering.

Around the World in 80 Novels: A global journey inspired by writers from every continent by Henry Russell

I picked up this book when my travel plans changed and it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere this year. If you’ve ever been curious about the real life settings and inspiration for some of the most famous books, Henry Russell’s Around the World in 80 Novels is for you. I liked how there was a good mix of classics and modern literature across various genres. On top of that, there are like tips and suggestions for those who are able to travel to these places. However, even if you aren’t able to physically travel to these countries, I like how this book expands on the idea that you can travel anywhere in the world and through time without leaving the comfort of your usual reading spot. Be ready with a notebook and pen while reading this book as I ended up discovering many titles to add to my TBR including Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (Jamaica and Dominica), Rose Macaulay”s The Towers of Trebizond (Turkey) and Death in Oslo by Anne Holt set in Norway.




Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky

Authour:whirl away
Russell Wangersky
Paperback, 224 pages
Publication date:
March 17th 2012
Thomas Allen Publishers
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Short story collection examines when coping skills slip – denial, pragmatism, or delusion. A caretaker of a prairie amusement park, the lone occupant of a collapsing Newfoundland town, a travelling sports drink marketer with a pressing need to get off the road, an elevator inspector who finds himself losing his marriage amid sensuous food gourmandizing – all spin out of control into new worlds.


“The bolt came through the open back window of the truck. It came in end over end. From a distance, if anyone had been watching it, concentrating, it might actually have appeared that the truck was doing the tumbling, and that the bolt was flying perfectly straight.” (p. 1)

If you’re like me, and by that I mean someone who has to commute a lot on a daily basis then you may understand the appeal of short stories. The length and the fact that each story can be read on its own means that you’ll be able to enjoy them during short as well as long trips.

Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky is a good example of this done well. Each of the stories are quite short in length, but they really draw you in. The stories also pack quite the emotional punch and the endings though fulfilling do make you want to read more. The plot of the stories were all really interesting mostly because of how Wangersky writes his characters; though they all are or do crazy, despicable things the reader cannot help but be intrigued. This is because the characters are shown at their most vulnerable moments when their life has spun out of their control thus making them very human and easy to relate to.

“…and I suddenly believed that all the books had been lying about love, that it wasn’t really endless and perfect and available after all. I also realized that I’d actually known this for a while, although I couldn’t pick out the exact day when I’d discovered it.” (p. 78)

Like most short story collections, there were some stories that were more enjoyable for me than others. My personal favourites were “911” and “No Harm, No Foul” both of which were really interesting. I also loved “Family Law” which is about a divorce lawyer who is having an affair while his marriage is falling apart. I liked it for its observations of various other case studies of divorce settlements and I thought the ending to this particular story was the perfect finishing touch. I also liked the fact that the story “Family Law” was connected to another story in the book, as it was interesting to see the different perspectives.

Although there were one or two stories I couldn’t really get into, overall Whirl Away was very strong collection of short stories. Wangersky’s writing is very captivating and solid throughout which made each of the stories satisfying in their own right. If you don’t mind short stories that aren’t uplifting, and like your stories to be about tragedy, loss, regret and sometimes death then you should definitely check out Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky.

If you like this book, you’ll love: This Will Be Difficult to Explain, and Other Stories by Johanna Shively Skibsrud

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.