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A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories - from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia. Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination - a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.


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A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories - from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia. Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination - a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.

30 review for Questions of Travel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    One of the more disappointing books I've read this year, and why de Kretser won the Miles Franklin for this is anyone's guess. While there were certainly pieces of beautiful prose in this book, on the whole it simply did not deliver. I found the two main characters to be passive, unsympathetic, un-engaging and two-dimensional. The story floundered around with what felt like very little structure and while the other characters seemed interesting, each of them just seemed to peter out to nothing, f One of the more disappointing books I've read this year, and why de Kretser won the Miles Franklin for this is anyone's guess. While there were certainly pieces of beautiful prose in this book, on the whole it simply did not deliver. I found the two main characters to be passive, unsympathetic, un-engaging and two-dimensional. The story floundered around with what felt like very little structure and while the other characters seemed interesting, each of them just seemed to peter out to nothing, fading away or simply being dispensed with, with no idea what they were there for in the first place. The long, intense descriptions of Ravi's friendships and family in his early life come to nothing at all and the deaths of his family, while shocking, are ultimately meaningless in the story. As is the mystery of Laura's motiveless wanderings, who is anonymously calling her all through the book, her odd relationship with her landlord and why she let the rooftop garden die. All in all, I wish I hadn't bothered - and it's not too often I say that.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    It’s taken me a while to read Questions of Travel – it’s one of those books that demands time and concentration. However it’s been a worthwhile investment; it’s an interesting, thought-provoking novel. It explores travel and tourism; work and leisure; and all the messiness of modern life, but it’s much richer than that. Almost every page triggers thought about all kinds of things, and the prose is a pleasure to read. De Kretser explores the modern phenomenon of travel in all its complexity and co It’s taken me a while to read Questions of Travel – it’s one of those books that demands time and concentration. However it’s been a worthwhile investment; it’s an interesting, thought-provoking novel. It explores travel and tourism; work and leisure; and all the messiness of modern life, but it’s much richer than that. Almost every page triggers thought about all kinds of things, and the prose is a pleasure to read. De Kretser explores the modern phenomenon of travel in all its complexity and contradictions: travel for pleasure, or for work; for migration, or for asylum. I am old enough to remember the first jumbo jet airliner arriving in Melbourne: little realising that we were witnessing the birth of the Age of Travel, we went outside with the Kodak camera to photograph it. Since then international travel has become mainstream and tourism is a major money-spinner in most economies around the world. De Kretser is interested in travel to escape. Two characters absorb our attention. There is Laura, not very attractive, resented by her sole surviving sibling, doing what many Aussies do, travelling the world to escape the ordinariness of her life, in search of a culture that she feels is missing from her homeland. And then there is Ravi the IT professional from Sri Lanka, who tugs at the reader’s heart-strings as Laura does not. He has suffered appalling trauma in his homeland and must escape it for his own safety. Both these characters have adjustments to make and both find that painful aspects of their old lives travel with them, wherever they go. To read the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2013/01/24/qu...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Davie

    A fictional tale of two completely different people with their completely different lives that finally, eventually, join towards the end. Briefly. The time span ranges from the 1960s to the 2000s. My Take I have absolutely no idea what the point of this story was. It's just pages and pages and pages of pointless background with pages and pages and pages of us following Laura's stream of consciousness as she picks up odd jobs here and there, slowly finding her niche in the working world. Ravi's sto A fictional tale of two completely different people with their completely different lives that finally, eventually, join towards the end. Briefly. The time span ranges from the 1960s to the 2000s. My Take I have absolutely no idea what the point of this story was. It's just pages and pages and pages of pointless background with pages and pages and pages of us following Laura's stream of consciousness as she picks up odd jobs here and there, slowly finding her niche in the working world. Ravi's story is more interesting but just as lacking in any depth. No, I'm not disrespecting Malini and Hiran, if anything I'm disappointed that de Kretser disrespects them. Simply using them to...what? She certainly hasn't made any points with it. It's more of an attempt to dredge up emotions by skimming through a tragedy. I loved Charlie's observation of Balinese affection for their children as he wonders why Westerners decided such affection spoils a child. The description of Hiran's joy in playing with his mother's hair painted a lovely picture. What was the point of all this background about Laura's artistic talent? Why did we endure the childhood friendships, interactions at school, the Sinhalese friends and neighbors emigrating to escape the terrorism? De Kretser has attempted tension and drama, but goes nowhere with it. She's too busy throwing in bits and pieces. The pieces do eventually connect---they certainly add to the background of each of the unconnected but primary characters. It's just too frustrating that it reads more like a journal missing chunks of time. All the possibilities for Ravi with Malini and Hiran, that de Kretser never uses. A mention here and there in case we forgot what happened to them. That's it. Who is it who has been calling Laura and hanging up on her throughout the story? What happened to Charlie's kid? What's the point of Deepti Pieris? Sure, de Kretser uses her to attempt a bit of treachery, but she goes nowhere with it. Well, I suppose I shouldn't complain. At least going nowhere is consistent throughout the story. What was the point of the carved "RAVI"? Malini's politics had nothing to do with Ravi. Perhaps de Kretser should have developed this instead of skimming it. What was the point of destroying Freda's phone? Why bother introducing us to Hazel's neighbors if we're never going to interact with them? What's the point of Layla? The few pluses of this story are the travel and cultural exposure: Laura in England and Naples, Ravi in Sri Lanka, and both of them living in Sydney. It's fascinating to see through their eyes, to experience the prejudices and bigotry of the other characters. I loved reading about the food while the familial interactions are universal---we're more alike than different! I loved de Kretser's observations of how the state of the tourist was "always to arrive too late" when the countryside is spoiled, politics has gotten in the way, progress has corrupted...nothing is as good as what the tourist has missed. And ain't it the truth! She goes on to point out the silliness of it with if onlys that go back as far as the Flood! The best of this story is de Kretser's occasional, brilliantly descriptive turns-of-phrase and the mechanics of her writing. Because this is an ARC and there is a deadline to submit this review before it's published, the actual quotations may not be retained in the story---and that would be a shame: "A waterfall in a forest was mourning its lost life as a cloud." "...the Atlantic approached, slow as a slattern, to smear its gray rags along the shore." "It is the winter in people's hearts that is hard to bear." "The currency of childhood is wishing. Money's only what grown-ups put in its place." "By the end of that sumer, Australia had entered Ravi. How it would keep him company no matter where in the world he went." Unfortunately, these weren't enough of these to counter the pointlessness of Questions of Travel. It would have worked better as snippets of stories left on their own. Perhaps as entries in a journal... The Story On the one hand, Laura is an ugly woman with no ambition other than to explore the world, and we follow her on her meandering travels. Then we encounter Ravi Mendis beginning with his childhood, getting caught up in his wife's campaigning against Tamil terrorism against Sinhalese soldiers, police, and ministers in Sri Lanka, and following his struggle to survive. Eventually Laura and Ravi end up working at a travel guide publishing company. And Laura needs a destination that turns out to be Ravi's homeland. It's sad that the ending merely made me feel a little bit bad. To be honest, my reaction was mostly one of relief at Laura's fate and a mild curiosity about Ravi's. The Characters The majority of those characters I've listed are simply pointless color. And, yes, I've left a number of characters out. It's as if de Kretser was told to develop a background for her characters, but no one told her she didn't have to put it all in the story. Laura Fraser is the youngest, unwanted child in the family. Hester is an aunt who came to her father's rescue when his wife died, and it's her influence that encourages Laura's travels. Cameron is the only surviving schmuck of a brother who goes on to a career in commercial law; Hamish is the twin who doesn't go far. Donald Fraser is the medical director of a hospital and her father. At least in name. He marries the anesthetist---we never do learn her name. He reaps the attention he has sown. Ravi Mendis is the middle child, a boy, fascinated by computers and ambitious to get ahead. Until he falls in love with Malini de Zilva, and they have a son, Hiran. Freda Hobson encourages Malini in her politics and aids Ravi in the aftermath. Priya is his conventional older sister with a big chip on her shoulder; she marries Lal Fonseka, an amiable dimwit. Varunika is the youngest daughter who ends up working as a nurse in Africa. Suresh Mendis is his father, anxious to make his wife, Carmel, happy. Mrs. Andrado was their ambitious neighbor. D.S. Basnayake is a relative of the Mendis' who grudgingly helps the young couple out. Frog-Face is a professor who comes in handy. Tracy Lacey is Laura's snobbish "friend" who occasionally pops up to be a condescending brat. Destiny is Tracy's even worse child. Charlie McKenzie was one of Laura's art school teachers, and her first long-term lover. Blanche was a landlady in England. Theo Newman was one of her few friends in England; he introduced her to a variety of people including Bea Morley who became a lifelong friend (and has a cousin, Vivienne, who provides Laura with a great opportunity) and Meera Bryden, an editor of a travel glossy who takes on Laura (Meera's husband, Lewis, is a crude jerk). Theo's mother, Anna, was a German refugee who told her son stories of her past. Gaby Shapton is his married sister. Dr. Gebhardt (I suspect it's a slip of the pen that reveals the doctor as a woman...). is his thesis supervisor. Roshi de Mel and Anusha are the daughters of friends who emigrate; Roshi briefly pops up again but I really don't see the point of this character. Aloysius is their father. Dudley seems to be their mentally challenged brother who gets left behind. Nimal Corea is his web designing friend who gets fed up, again and again. I liked the idea of RealLanka. Angie Segal is the immigration lawyer in Sydney. Hazel Costigan is the woman who will rent a shed to Ravi in Sydney. Bettany is, I think, Hazel's daughter with Robbo, but she doesn't live with Hazel. It's very vague. Fair Play is a spoiled beagle-whippet, who adds color, but I wouldn't miss him if he had never appeared. Kev is Hazel's fourth, and he has Lefty, a big blond Labrador—adding more color. Russ is the third son (I think). Damo is Hazel's youngest son; he's protective of his mother and compassionate. He's also gay. Len is a husband who is mentioned twice. More color. And yet more color when we learn about Hazel's chairs. None of which has any bearing on the story. Ramsay Publications (mostly in Sydney) Helmut Becker works in the design office. Nadine Flanagan is the webmaster; I have no idea how Tyler Dean fits into the office other than that he's a techie, appears to be in charge, and hires Ravi as a favor to his lover, Damo. Cliff Ferrier runs the office now that the owner/founder/director and his new trophy wife are running around the globe, shopping. Quentin Husker is the head of Publishing whose sister Arabella was once married to Alan Ramsay. Crystal Bowles is obsessed with status and fashion. Jade is her sister who worked with Robyn Carr heads up Marketing. Paul Hinkel becomes the HR manager. Gina Piggott runs the London office, and she has what we first believe are delusions of grandeur. Alice Merton. Hugo Drummond is a dead artist whose still-living lover, Carlo Ferri, needs live-in help. Rosalba is Carlo's cousin, and she shares a secret past and passion with him. Banksia Gardens, the old folks home Abebe Issayas is an Ethiopian nurse's aide. Hana is his sister with a daughter, Tarik. The Cover The cover is golden with its porthole looking out onto a slope of forested land poking out into the water. The title would be more appropriately titled Questions of Why anyone bothered to publish this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marnie Masuda

    It's not surprising that this book is garnering unmitigated critical praise. It's brave, thought-provoking, experimental and meticulously crafted. It's also not surprising that many readers aren't into the level of writer/reader reciprocity inherent in Questions of Travel. The narrative requires thought, attention, consideration. There's not an ounce of manipulative, lugubrious attachment, just masterful, idea-based storytelling. The title lets the reader in on exactly what they'll face: questio It's not surprising that this book is garnering unmitigated critical praise. It's brave, thought-provoking, experimental and meticulously crafted. It's also not surprising that many readers aren't into the level of writer/reader reciprocity inherent in Questions of Travel. The narrative requires thought, attention, consideration. There's not an ounce of manipulative, lugubrious attachment, just masterful, idea-based storytelling. The title lets the reader in on exactly what they'll face: questions. Movement, imagination, globalism, subjectivity, ennui, alientation, phenomenology--these are nuanced and tricky subjects, concepts that won't fold, neatly and lightly, into a Little Bee or an Eat, Pray, Love. I want to write a "thank you" note to author, agent and publisher for bringing us a real, challenging work of literature: an endangered species I'm hoping we can still preserve. I loved, loved, loved this book and will carry images, phrases and passages with me like souvenirs from a demanding grand tour.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dhitri

    This book was a disappointment for me. I feel like a philistine for not understanding the point of this book. Sure, the lyrical prose was beautiful, but too often they came across as self-indulgent rambling. I get it; the author wants to recreate emotions around the subject of travel, migration and human movement at its very core, taking all that as a metaphor to life. But does it really need to span out to 400 plus pages? The book follows the lives of two characters, who could not be more diffe This book was a disappointment for me. I feel like a philistine for not understanding the point of this book. Sure, the lyrical prose was beautiful, but too often they came across as self-indulgent rambling. I get it; the author wants to recreate emotions around the subject of travel, migration and human movement at its very core, taking all that as a metaphor to life. But does it really need to span out to 400 plus pages? The book follows the lives of two characters, who could not be more different to each other: Laura Fraser, born to a wealthy Australian family, is the archtypical rich poor girl, who suffers from failed parenting and sets out to traverse the globe when her aunt left her an inheritance of considerable sum. Ravi is a self taught IT whiz, who has set out to explore new virtual territories opened to him by the World Wide Web, when tragic circumstances forced him to leave his home country for Australia. The two different plots are not only disconnected from each other (was there supposed to be a comparison? Did anything parallel happen?) but they were individually detached strands of stories. Maybe that was supposed to represent life itself: even though we move in the linearity of time, but our life's stories, other than held together by the fragile string that is time (represented by iur age), are basically detached from each other. I appreciate that this sort of contemplation may have been thr author's intention, but could it not have been told in a more concise, gripping, more thought provoking or emotionally appealing way? I did love some of passages and scenes. The story spanned different decades, and the author has the cunning ability to represent the context and feel of that particular time and space (Europe in the 1990s, for instance). The feeling of isolation, detachment, the longing that accompanies a solo traveller came across really well, and equally so did the feeling of migrant struggling to reinvent himself in a place perceived to be a hostile place. But most of the time I was skipping pages, rolling my eyes. I even had to take a break from readingt this book as the plot started to drag towards the end. What kept me going was the hope that Laura's and Ravi's paths would cross, which they did in the end but in a complete anticlimax. Come to think of it, I think I was hanging on so I could make sense of this book. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to like this book, even after contemplating long and hard about it, I just couldn't.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Stephens

    I finished reading Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser this morning. Rarely have I been so eager to reach the end of a novel to get it over with. De Kretser exhausts over 500 pages attempting to make a profound statement about travel and I’d be lying if I said I understood what exactly she was trying to convey. It’s clear she also has something to say about the internet and the advance of technology but I can’t figure out that message either. To quote one of my favorite movie lines, “what I finished reading Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser this morning. Rarely have I been so eager to reach the end of a novel to get it over with. De Kretser exhausts over 500 pages attempting to make a profound statement about travel and I’d be lying if I said I understood what exactly she was trying to convey. It’s clear she also has something to say about the internet and the advance of technology but I can’t figure out that message either. To quote one of my favorite movie lines, “what we have here is a failure to communicate”. Questions of Travel introduces us to Laura and to Ravi, two characters who inhabit the same novel but never cross paths until near the end of the novel and even then have no real impact on each other’s lives. Laura’s story is rambling, dull, and rather depressing as it recounts her aimless days doing this, that, and nothing in between bits of travel and sleeping with almost any hard luck case or loser that comes along. Ravi’s story is the stronger of the two as it chronicles his tale of profound loss, fear, and eventual second guessing over what has really happened to his family and whether he can ever return home. It’s such a waste of potential, this novel. De Kretser has a way with words, a beautiful prose that puts you in the scene and yet this mind numbing, slow paced, going nowhere plot has sunk the novel. It could have been something great, with a lot more work from the editors.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lianne

    The concept of Questions of Travel sounded very interesting, following two very different lives and the ideas of home, travelling and life experience. Despite of this, I found it rather difficult to get through this novel; I just couldn’t really get into the story. I could not connect with either character and it felt like there were so many themes crammed into the novel that at the end, it left no impression on my mind. My complete review of the novel was originally posted at eclectictales.com: The concept of Questions of Travel sounded very interesting, following two very different lives and the ideas of home, travelling and life experience. Despite of this, I found it rather difficult to get through this novel; I just couldn’t really get into the story. I could not connect with either character and it felt like there were so many themes crammed into the novel that at the end, it left no impression on my mind. My complete review of the novel was originally posted at eclectictales.com: http://www.eclectictales.com/blog/201...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    A bold, clever and multi-faceted novel that is very difficult to summarise. It interleaves the stories of two main characters - Laura, an Australian who spends the first half of the book travelling and living in Europe and the second back in Sydney working for a company that makes travel guides, and Ravi, who leaves Sri Lanka and seeks asylum in Australia after his wife, a human rights campaigner and his son are murdered, ending up in Sydney working for the same company as Laura. These protagoni A bold, clever and multi-faceted novel that is very difficult to summarise. It interleaves the stories of two main characters - Laura, an Australian who spends the first half of the book travelling and living in Europe and the second back in Sydney working for a company that makes travel guides, and Ravi, who leaves Sri Lanka and seeks asylum in Australia after his wife, a human rights campaigner and his son are murdered, ending up in Sydney working for the same company as Laura. These protagonists are largely passive ciphers, pegs to hang ideas and observations on. The ideas are about national identity, why people travel, how it changes them (or doesn't), how the travel industry works, how the internet changed perceptions and much much more. There are also richly observed details on many different places, and the writing flows easily and is never difficult to read. At just over 500 pages, it could possibly have been edited a little, but that is my only real criticism. For me de Kretser's best book yet.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert Wechsler

    This, the third of de Kretser's four novels that I've read, doesn’t simply break rules; it plays with them, and the play was just as much fun for me as it must have been for her. For example, it’s common to have two voices tell a story in alternating chapters, but de Kretser’s alternating chapters are in third person (it’s hard to imagine her protagonists having voices) and they don’t quite alternate. Time moves in skips and hops. Major events happen like small towns: blink and you’ll miss them. This, the third of de Kretser's four novels that I've read, doesn’t simply break rules; it plays with them, and the play was just as much fun for me as it must have been for her. For example, it’s common to have two voices tell a story in alternating chapters, but de Kretser’s alternating chapters are in third person (it’s hard to imagine her protagonists having voices) and they don’t quite alternate. Time moves in skips and hops. Major events happen like small towns: blink and you’ll miss them. I dreaded the point when the two protagonists would meet. I hoped they wouldn’t (they don’t meet cute, that I can say). Plot just gets in the way of de Kretser’s wonderfully odd, enlightening observations and locutions. This is a novel that separates the sheep from the goats. Many Goodreads reviewers found it very uncomfortable to read. It’s either that or a great joy. And yet it’s not experimental in the usual sense. It isn’t anything in the usual sense. What it is is a novel of sensibility. Two authors that came to mind reading this novel were Katherine Mansfield and Christina Stead, both of whom also grew up Down Under (I hadn’t realized that, or remembered that, about Mansfield until just now, after checking Wikipedia; de Kretser moved to Australia at the age of 14). De Kretser does so many things in this novel, it’s hard to know where to start. One interesting thing she does is show that suspense, that is, what makes one read page after page to see what happens, does not require much plot. With this novel, the suspense is more what de Kretser is going to do next. You never know what the next paragraph will bring, not to mention what the characters will do. For me, it was just watching de Kretser in action. She's not only omniscient, as a narrator, but omnipotent. She’s in and out of everyone, with so many points of view. But it’s her twisted, off-angle, always surprising ways of putting or describing things and feelings, and often both at the same time, that made the novel for me. The novel’s principal structural element is its theme: travel. But it’s a jellyfish, not a skeleton. That is, it's not a backbone that is just fleshed out. Nor is it an idea that is played out. The novel deals with all sorts of travel, travel through place and time, travel as a tourist or a refugee, interactions, guidebooks, you name it. De Kretser only sometimes hits the reader over the head with the theme, but it’s everywhere, in myriad forms. This is de Kretser's best novel, and that's saying a lot. She took a big risk writing an essentially free-form novel. It was only as the novel progressed, and the two protagonists sort of settled down, and there was something of a plot — that is, when the form became less free – that the novel suffered, a bit. I felt that the first half was the better half. But this only means that the joys in the second half were fewer, not that they weren’t there on nearly every page.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Albanese

    I can't remember when I last struggled so much to finish a book. I'm not sure how Michelle de Kretser did it, but she has managed to fill over 500 pages with words which say.......what, exactly? I still have no idea. This book has two main characters, both insipid and unsympathetic (particularly the highly irritating Laura) travelling but going nowhere. I actually started to have some hope for the book about one third of the way through when the parallels of these two became evident- one returni I can't remember when I last struggled so much to finish a book. I'm not sure how Michelle de Kretser did it, but she has managed to fill over 500 pages with words which say.......what, exactly? I still have no idea. This book has two main characters, both insipid and unsympathetic (particularly the highly irritating Laura) travelling but going nowhere. I actually started to have some hope for the book about one third of the way through when the parallels of these two became evident- one returning to Australia after having travelled widely, the other a refugee in a strange land. But this theme went nowhere, and the story lumbered along, Ravi lost in his grief, Laura bedding a series of men that felt across her path. Minor characters popped in and out, many being reintroduced long after I'd forgotten who they were- there were so many of them. What a bore.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dillwynia Peter

    What a wasted opportunity! From about the 50th page until the end I was in this fug. What is it about this book, I thought? Why do I think everything is almost but not quite right? As I pondered it materialised. Imagine a nice watercolour: the scene is a rural European village. There are splashes of reds, yellows & blues, and a lot of paler shades. Now cover the scene with an opaque layer. You can still see the scene, but it loses the vibrancy of the original. You are still taken by the mastery of What a wasted opportunity! From about the 50th page until the end I was in this fug. What is it about this book, I thought? Why do I think everything is almost but not quite right? As I pondered it materialised. Imagine a nice watercolour: the scene is a rural European village. There are splashes of reds, yellows & blues, and a lot of paler shades. Now cover the scene with an opaque layer. You can still see the scene, but it loses the vibrancy of the original. You are still taken by the mastery of the original strokes, but it doesn’t retain your interest. 2nd thought: look at a perfect piece of fruit, an apple or stone fruit works best. It looks so inviting and then you bite into it. You know from experience it will be full of flavours – tart and sweet, juicy and fulfilling; except the bite reveals a bland concoction of semi-hard flesh and little juice. You bite the other side in vain. These are my sentiments regarding this book. I kept on asking – how are you doing this? How are you creating interesting characters and plot lines & then making them so boring! There are two stories – one a disaffected girl wandering & not finding herself; the other a man who is caught up in the Sri Lankan conflict of the 90’s & noughties, and the refuge process to get out. This is still a hot topic here and this novel could have opened some great discussion. Not everyone leaving are Tamil, and thus, their journey out is harder and more fraught with chilling dangers. The one group you can’t trust are the police and associated authorities. An author such as Tim Winton or Christopher Koch or Peter Temple would have treated the Sri Lankan plot with more verve, giving us a more visceral experience. Instead, even at the most horrible points, it felt like I was a ghost looking through a curtain. Oh, yeah & then this nasty thing happened. And now we move on….. One normally expects two disparaging story lines to connect in some way, but these didn’t. I was left very disappointed when the lines did meet. This is it??!! Was my astounded cry. I won’t give that one away, because it is a long book and you might be excited to get to the end. Thus, we have a book with some interesting characters along Laura’s journey of non-discovery, and we are introduced into the nastiness that has been the politics over the past 30 years in Sri Lanka. The writing style is also mostly bland; I remember noting I laughed or enjoyed about 5-6 pages, which isn’t much when you consider the thing is 510 pages long. And then we have the pages at the front of the accolades for how brillant de Kretser is. My fav Shakespeare quote came to mind: “Me thinks the Lady doth protest too much!” They had to have been taken out of context, or praising another book, because I never found within these pages any of the excitement or frisson that is listed in those 5 1st pages. If I didn’t know any better, I would have said de Kretser was a stoner. It sure felt like I was reading through a smoky fug.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    Questions of Travel is the fourth novel by Sri Lanka- born author, Michelle de Kretser. This novel follows, from childhood, events in the lives of two people: in Sydney, Laura Fraser, inspired by her Great-aunt Hester’s travel stories, uses a bequest from Hester to travel the world, eventually making a career in travel guide publishing; in Sri Lanka, Ravi Mendis’s life is turned upside down by devastating events, causing him to flee for his life. Ultimately, their paths cross, although this does Questions of Travel is the fourth novel by Sri Lanka- born author, Michelle de Kretser. This novel follows, from childhood, events in the lives of two people: in Sydney, Laura Fraser, inspired by her Great-aunt Hester’s travel stories, uses a bequest from Hester to travel the world, eventually making a career in travel guide publishing; in Sri Lanka, Ravi Mendis’s life is turned upside down by devastating events, causing him to flee for his life. Ultimately, their paths cross, although this does not happen until almost three quarters of the way through the book. de Krester is skilled at conveying atmosphere and mood: she captures the feel of Sydney summer beautifully and her intimate knowledge of Sri Lanka is apparent. de Kretser slowly builds her story around a set of complex characters: I really wanted happiness for these two, but they seemed determined to thwart their own contentment at every turn. de Kretster’s novel will have the reader thinking about travel in its many different forms: travel for pleasure, for work, as migration, and in flight from persecution or war. At one point, Ravi realises that “Immigration was the triumph of geography over history.” de Kretser juxtaposes the superficiality of tourism with the life of locals in those destinations: the global rich in the context of the local poor. There is some beautiful prose: “Antennas were suspended above tiles – or were they the bones of fish? Clouds parted, and a great rib of light reached into a valley like an illustration from a Bible story.” And “Ferries passed, lit up like cakes. The bridge went on holding the two halves of the city apart.” The last paragraph is a completely unexpected twist. Powerful and thought-provoking.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    Read my full review: http://bit.ly/14aoruM Oh my good Lord this book is boring. It is very rare I have nothing good to say about a book. This is one of those books though. The writing was dry. There were WAY too many characters. The majority of characters were one dimensional. I forced myself to finish this book due to my commitment to review it. That is the only reason. I read this book several weeks ago and have almost forgotten the entire book. Read my full review: http://bit.ly/14aoruM Oh my good Lord this book is boring. It is very rare I have nothing good to say about a book. This is one of those books though. The writing was dry. There were WAY too many characters. The majority of characters were one dimensional. I forced myself to finish this book due to my commitment to review it. That is the only reason. I read this book several weeks ago and have almost forgotten the entire book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I know that there are people who love this book, but I am not one of them. I think that a book that moves slowly should either contain lush description or be written in amazing prose. This book is neither. It contains some very interesting observations on the contrasts between cultures, and some finely honed descriptions, but they are buried in a rather long book about some uninteresting characters.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Laura Fraser is an artistic Australian, who lost her mother at a very early age and her father was cold and distinct towards her, as was her brother. On the other side of the world Ravi Mendes’ life was almost the complete opposite to Laura, but still struggles in life at times; currently he is determined to break into the computer science industry. Alternating from one character to the other, Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel explores why we are all influenced by travel. Questions of Tra Laura Fraser is an artistic Australian, who lost her mother at a very early age and her father was cold and distinct towards her, as was her brother. On the other side of the world Ravi Mendes’ life was almost the complete opposite to Laura, but still struggles in life at times; currently he is determined to break into the computer science industry. Alternating from one character to the other, Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Travel explores why we are all influenced by travel. Questions of Travel won the Miles Franklin award this year but if it wasn’t for my book club I would never have read it and I think that might have been a mistake. This novel is almost a post-modernist novel in the experimental way the author approached it. I read this book as if the two characters are sitting me down and going through their photo album and telling the story related to each picture. Slowly we get the full story but there are a lot of pieces we have to fill in for ourselves. The reason I thought this was just the way it was written and you have these really short chapters but every now and then you get a long one. Also the dates on each chapter become more specific as we got closer to the present day, almost like the character remembers the year rather than the decade now. While reading this novel I got the impression that Michelle de Kretser was trying to explore the whole philosophy behind travel; why we do it? What we love about it? That feeling you get being in a strange country. This was a really interesting approach she took and really worked well with the experimental writing style. The author used to write for the Lonely Planet and throughout this novel you can see her small digs at these books and the bureaucracy behind them. Little things like this really helped lighten the mood for the novel. Questions of Travel has some beautiful language throughout the book and you find yourself really taking the time to enjoy the book (even though I didn’t have much of that before my next book club meeting). This novel demanded more time than I gave it and I might have missed so much but due to time restrictions I had to power through it. There were times I found some great quotes and I wanted to write them down but I was in too much of a hurry (also I never seem to do that but am trying to make more of an effort). The novel is both thought provoking and emotional; you’ll experience the highs and lows of the two main characters and even if you have found a favourite, both characters offer interesting insights to life and travel. Also on a positive note, this novel also offers one of the best opening chapters I’ve read in recent times, it comes out of nowhere and smacks you in the face. I spent days trying to decide if I liked this book and what I liked about it and that right there is why I enjoyed it; like Slaughterhouse-Five the time spent afterwards thinking about it is what I will remember more than the book itself. I’m not sure if I would recommend this novel to many people, you’d have to be willing to read experimental or post-modernist novels to really enjoy what Michelle de Kretser is doing. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Venus Smurf

    I honestly don't know quite what to make of this book. The writing style was clever and unique, and the entire time I was reading, I felt like I was being given glimpses into someone else's memories and thoughts. It was different, and I never quite felt like I had a grip on the book, but it's also the sort of thing that will put this book on some college lit professor's course list a few years from now. This is the type of book that leaves people thinking about it for weeks afterwards, and the t I honestly don't know quite what to make of this book. The writing style was clever and unique, and the entire time I was reading, I felt like I was being given glimpses into someone else's memories and thoughts. It was different, and I never quite felt like I had a grip on the book, but it's also the sort of thing that will put this book on some college lit professor's course list a few years from now. This is the type of book that leaves people thinking about it for weeks afterwards, and the type that probably deserves a second reading. I was also impressed with the use of language. The author's descriptions of places were so vibrant that I felt as if I was right there with the character. And having been to many of the places mentioned in the novel, I'm impressed by how well the author managed to capture the essence of some of the more exotic locations with just a few words. One of the things I liked most, though, was the way the author described ordinary objects and people and buildings. Some of the phrases were so brilliant that I couldn't help smiling and reading them again. She turned ordinary objects into magical items, and the words were whimiscal and beautiful. Still, I do think the author sometimes took the whimsy too far. There were several times when a description was so lyrical that I honestly just didn't know what was being described until the author flat-out explained in later sentences. This was probably intentional, but it happened too often to be appealing. And some of the phrases were simply confusing. Case in point: "Her thoughts were bright and dark as leaves." I don't have the faintest idea what that was supposed to mean, and while I'm all for thought-inspiring works, that was a bit much. On the whole, I didn't really like this book. I usually have to feel something for the main characters to like a book, and it was impossible for me to connect to Laura and Ravi when they were so disconnected to everything and everyone themselves. I never felt they were real enough to matter one way or another. And even though I kept waiting to at least like one of them, I never really did. I think there are going to be a lot of people who absolutely adore this book, but I'm not one of them. Final rating? Three stars for the writing style and the language, because for the most part, they were both truly beautiful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘What are you doing here? This was travel, marvellous and sad.’ There are two people’s stories in this novel: two displaced people who’ve travelled in order to find, or to escape. Laura Fraser, freshly moneyed thanks to a legacy, leaves Australia behind in order to see the world. Laura ends up in London where she becomes a house-sitter and then works as a travel writer. Laura is an outsider with few attachments. Ravi Mendes leaves his Sri Lankan homeland in fear of his life, and ends up applying ‘What are you doing here? This was travel, marvellous and sad.’ There are two people’s stories in this novel: two displaced people who’ve travelled in order to find, or to escape. Laura Fraser, freshly moneyed thanks to a legacy, leaves Australia behind in order to see the world. Laura ends up in London where she becomes a house-sitter and then works as a travel writer. Laura is an outsider with few attachments. Ravi Mendes leaves his Sri Lankan homeland in fear of his life, and ends up applying for asylum in Australia. ‘Now the world is full of people who don’t belong where they end up and long for places where they did.’ Laura sees Europe through Australian eyes, while Ravi sees Australia through the eyes of an asylum seeker. Travel can be both experience and refuge, either way it is an industry. Half way through the novel, Laura starts working for Ramsay Publications, a publisher of travel guidebooks. Ravi, before he leaves Sri Lanka, was interested in geography and wanted to be a tourist. Neither Laura nor Ravi is fated to belong in the worlds they inhabit. Both remain as outsiders. ‘Ferries passed, lit up like cakes. The bridge went on holding the two halves of the city apart.’ The stories of Laura and Ravi alternate throughout the novel, which covers 40 years of their restless lives. Ravi, at least, has a sense of what is missing in his life. Laura seems less focussed. Travel may have broadened Laura’s experience, but it seems to have diminished her sense of self. Do Laura and Ravi meet? And what impact would any meeting have on their lives? I found Ravi’s story more engaging than Laura’s: I found it easier to empathise with his situation and to understand his choices. I could also understand how - for Ravi- the Internet became another mode of travel, a way of shrinking a vast world. Travel is not just physical, and it isn’t always beneficial. Laura does not seem to develop as a consequence of her travel, and while Ravi finds comparative safety it is not enough. ‘Across the world, the world-weary were waiting.’ Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This is a gorgeous novel, with some wonderful, insightful writing and beautiful descriptions, although I found it at times a difficult book to read. It intertwines the stories of two very different characters, Laura from Sydney who has grown up without a mother and a distant father and Ravi who despite growing up fatherless and in poverty, receives a good education and becomes a maths lecturer and early website designer. Each must travel to find out who they are and what they want from life. Lau This is a gorgeous novel, with some wonderful, insightful writing and beautiful descriptions, although I found it at times a difficult book to read. It intertwines the stories of two very different characters, Laura from Sydney who has grown up without a mother and a distant father and Ravi who despite growing up fatherless and in poverty, receives a good education and becomes a maths lecturer and early website designer. Each must travel to find out who they are and what they want from life. Laura chooses to follow the backpacking trail to Europe when her aunt leaves her some money and ends up settling in London for some time until the thought of light and heat bring her back to Australia. Ravi suffers a tragic event and seeks asylum in Australia. They meet when they both find themselves working for a travel guide company, however neither has yet finished their journey and must continue on. Although the writing is wonderful, almost lyrical in places and always enjoyable to read, I did find the novel dragged in the middle and I really wondered where it was going. Both Laura and Ravi seem to be marking time, waiting for something to happen to them for much of the novel and I think I would have enjoyed the novel more if the first half had been shorter. The pace does improve once we reach the second part of the book where the main characters have arrived in Australia to begin the next phase of their lives, although once again Ravi and Laura become fairly passive as they wait for their lives to unfold and I found that a bit frustrating. However, the book raises many questions about the purpose of travel and what we gain from it, it also addresses the difficult life suffered by asylum seekers who must wait in limbo while the courts decide their fate and raises questions about ethnicity and racism is this globalised age. I think this is also a book that will benefit from being re-read, with time taken to enjoy the journey without being concerned about what lies ahead. 3.5 stars

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Finch-Quadrio

    QUESTIONS OF TRAVEL by Michelle De Kretser. This novel won the 2013 Miles Franklin Award and the Prime Minister's Prize for fiction. It tells the story of Laura, a lusty, frumpy and listless Australian travel writer who and Ravi a Sri Lankan who comes to Australia after conflict in his homeland destroys his family. Praise has been heaped on this book but undeservedly. De Kretser writes the occasional interesting phrase or description but this book is overlong, self-indulgent and ultimately unrew QUESTIONS OF TRAVEL by Michelle De Kretser. This novel won the 2013 Miles Franklin Award and the Prime Minister's Prize for fiction. It tells the story of Laura, a lusty, frumpy and listless Australian travel writer who and Ravi a Sri Lankan who comes to Australia after conflict in his homeland destroys his family. Praise has been heaped on this book but undeservedly. De Kretser writes the occasional interesting phrase or description but this book is overlong, self-indulgent and ultimately unrewarding. The reviewer from The New York Times puts it better than I could ever hope to: "And yet, abundant as it is, the elegance, wit and wisdom of de Kretser’s writing ultimately fails to rescue the novel from its structural flaws. Almost Tolstoyan in scale and range, “Questions of Travel” feels like a huge game of Ping-Pong, its story unfolding as an outsize set of brief back-and-forth chapters. The emergence of distinctive patterns and juxtaposed meanings is undermined by the sheer number and frequency of these switches, then further disrupted by too many minor plot excursions and secondary character profiles. Moreover, de Kretser seems stubbornly committed to representing her main characters as sluggish when it comes to directing their own lives, people for whom every hopeful turn and promising situation turns pointless and dismal. It’s hard to care much about what happens to Laura and Ravi, who don’t seem to care much for themselves, or each other." De Kretser is undoubtedly clever but after reading her interviews it's obvious she considers herself an 'artist'. *groan* I would love to hear anyone else's review and would be happy to lend my copy of this book to you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    One of the threads that winds itself through Questions of Travel is the notion of consumerism and consumption. The way we devour and demand experiences through entitlement is one of the themes offered to muse over, however it's clear that not everyone who read the book has had this same insight. I've had a quick read over some of the other reviews by readers and I'm struck by how many of these comments directly feed into this theme of consumption, despite people's lack of awareness of this. This One of the threads that winds itself through Questions of Travel is the notion of consumerism and consumption. The way we devour and demand experiences through entitlement is one of the themes offered to muse over, however it's clear that not everyone who read the book has had this same insight. I've had a quick read over some of the other reviews by readers and I'm struck by how many of these comments directly feed into this theme of consumption, despite people's lack of awareness of this. This isn't a novel with a punchy theme to keep you on the edge of your seat, devouring the book. It's not even about the main characters meeting or about conforming to any particular formula, but more so about the juxtaposition - of their lives, experiences, attitudes and feelings. Having just read and relished this book, from the tempo, to the new and familiar insights into places and feelings, I'm left with a feeling of satisfaction. Of reading a fabulously written book that has a natural pace, great connection to place and time, and thought provoking insights into many different characters. It's a great read, but I think you need to leave your expectations at the door to fully appreciate it for what it is.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sandee

    Great title, not only are there questions of travel, but questions about where this story took place, where it would go, and what it would contribute. While flattered to be invited to review this book from Little Brown and Company, I regretfully say that this book was full of questions. Perhaps this is a little unfair after reading 4 pages, but I could not turn another page. I was so confused about whose voice was narrating the book and what it was talking about. There seemed to be a conflict of t Great title, not only are there questions of travel, but questions about where this story took place, where it would go, and what it would contribute. While flattered to be invited to review this book from Little Brown and Company, I regretfully say that this book was full of questions. Perhaps this is a little unfair after reading 4 pages, but I could not turn another page. I was so confused about whose voice was narrating the book and what it was talking about. There seemed to be a conflict of time, place, and voice that made me a little dizzy. I have so many books in cue that I need to finish before mid August and a full house that demands my attention that I have no patience to wade through the story until I finally "got it." But it wasn't only that, it was so frustrating that I didn't even feel like I would return to the book and pick it up later (like I would with the Life of Pi, for instance). So sorry, I just couldn't do it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This was a slow starter, but it was quite interesting. I enjoyed following Laura’s story and her travels. This started in the 1970s and went through until the mid 2000s and I liked reading of significant world events through the lives of the characters. I know this won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2013 (and was nominated for others), but as I often find with literary fiction, it appears that the judges saw something I didn’t. It was an interesting story, and there are some nice descriptiv This was a slow starter, but it was quite interesting. I enjoyed following Laura’s story and her travels. This started in the 1970s and went through until the mid 2000s and I liked reading of significant world events through the lives of the characters. I know this won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2013 (and was nominated for others), but as I often find with literary fiction, it appears that the judges saw something I didn’t. It was an interesting story, and there are some nice descriptive sentences and passages, but I didn’t feel it was any better than average.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kimbofo

    If books won prizes for ambition alone, Michelle de Kretser's Questions of Travel should win every gong going. This is a "widescreen" novel that explores the interconnectedness of our lives brought about by the advent of the internet, cheap travel and globalisation. To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog. If books won prizes for ambition alone, Michelle de Kretser's Questions of Travel should win every gong going. This is a "widescreen" novel that explores the interconnectedness of our lives brought about by the advent of the internet, cheap travel and globalisation. To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    The first book I have read by Michelle de Kretser. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had expected to do. I found the movement in each chapter between the two main characters (a woman born in Australia, a man born in Sri Lanka) rather disjointed, and many of the subsidiary characters weren't filled in enough for me to remember who they were when one of them bobbed up after a hundred pages or so. I thought the best thing about the book was the portrayal of Laura, the central female character. Pla The first book I have read by Michelle de Kretser. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had expected to do. I found the movement in each chapter between the two main characters (a woman born in Australia, a man born in Sri Lanka) rather disjointed, and many of the subsidiary characters weren't filled in enough for me to remember who they were when one of them bobbed up after a hundred pages or so. I thought the best thing about the book was the portrayal of Laura, the central female character. Plain, unloved, unhappy and overweight - she was convincingly real. And the book's ending was very powerful, a reminder of how our lives move on and we forget the tragedies of others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    De Kretser uses her two main characters to explore the many meanings of 'travel' in the late twentieth and early twentieth centuries, including tourism, migration both voluntary and forced, and virtual travel through the internet and some of the questions of identity that arise through these different forms of 'travel'. An unhappy, unsettled Sydney woman, Laura Fraser, sets out from home in her twenties, freed from the family that didn't want her by an unexpected legacy. For years she travels mo De Kretser uses her two main characters to explore the many meanings of 'travel' in the late twentieth and early twentieth centuries, including tourism, migration both voluntary and forced, and virtual travel through the internet and some of the questions of identity that arise through these different forms of 'travel'. An unhappy, unsettled Sydney woman, Laura Fraser, sets out from home in her twenties, freed from the family that didn't want her by an unexpected legacy. For years she travels mostly in Europe, lives in London, eats too much, grasps sexual encounters wherever she can. She is unclear about her identity from the start, and by the end seems no clearer about who she is, why she is where she is or doing what she's doing. Her travelling experience and writing ability set her up to become a travel writer and she eventually returns home to Sydney to work for a company probably not unlike Lonely Planet, where De Kretser herself worked for some years. De Kretser's familiarity with this world is obvious, and her writing about life in a company that commissions and produces travel guides is very funny indeed. De Kretser writes brilliantly about place and people, always finely observed and often unexpected in its juxtapositions of objects and ideas. For instance: 'a magical morning in Madrid brought the white annihilation of snow. The olives were wonderful, purple and full-flavoured. But in a bar all the profiles were Picassos, the line of the forehead continuous with the bridge of the nose. Fairy-light-entwined among the bottles, the Virgin's plaster robe shone Aryan blue. Laura left without ordering, and from every radio along the street, Madonna II declared that it was "just like a prayer"; a song that had pursued Laura across the globe....' Whereas Laura is a rich traveller, Ravi is forced to flee Sri Lanka fearing for his life after the brutal, horrifying murder of his wife and daughter. His passage to Australia (Sydney) is engineered by a determined NGO worker and a corrupt, vicious Australian bureaucrat. No further down that path - spoilers lie that way. Living in Sydney on a temporary immigration visa, Ravi works first at a home for the aged, where many of the staff are refugees, and then is helped into a job working in IT in the same travel guides production company where Laura works, finally bringing the two lives together after 350 or so pages of the 515 in my edition. A.S. Byatt wrote in the 'Guardian': 'De Kretser is a master storyteller and again and again prepares small - and large- shocks that explode tens of pages later... It is not really possible to describe, in a short space, the originality and depth of this long and beautifully crafted book'. And Hilary Mantel: De Kretser 'can create a sweeping narrative which encompasses years, and yet still retain the sharp, almost hallucinatory detail. It's brilliant'. High praise indeed. So what have I given it four stars? It wasn't an easy book to read. So much is going on, often very intense, that I needed to break off to absorb what I had just read and then take a deep breath to continue. And for a long time I was baffled by De Kretser's decision to write parallel lives of these two characters who had so little in common, and whose meeting point seemed almost coincidental. I finished reading it over a week ago and the time in between has allowed me to understand that they are vehicles for exploring ideas and contrasting lives, but I would love to have the chance to ask the author why she chose them.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sam Still Reading

    From the moment I saw the cover of this book, I was intrigued – a distant ocean, land far away, a single bird…it just all seemed so peaceful. Like a holiday. Questions of Travel certainly covers a lot of journeys and travel, but not all of them for holiday purposes. The novel opens with short, sharp chapters alternating between the childhoods of the two main characters, Laura and Ravi. Laura is an average Australian girl; Ravi is from Sri Lanka. Laura has a desire to paint, while Ravi chooses mat From the moment I saw the cover of this book, I was intrigued – a distant ocean, land far away, a single bird…it just all seemed so peaceful. Like a holiday. Questions of Travel certainly covers a lot of journeys and travel, but not all of them for holiday purposes. The novel opens with short, sharp chapters alternating between the childhoods of the two main characters, Laura and Ravi. Laura is an average Australian girl; Ravi is from Sri Lanka. Laura has a desire to paint, while Ravi chooses mathematics and computing. Laura receives an inheritance which allows her to travel, first to Bali and then to Europe. She takes up residence in England, then Italy and England again. In between the wanderlust and complex relationships though, is a strange longing for home. As an Australian myself, I can definitely relate to the things that bring a tear to our eyes – the faint scent of eucalyptus, the clear and strong light, sunny days… Ravi’s life is in complete contrast to Laura’s. Civil unrest and the mangled body of his wife lead him to flee his homeland for Australia to seek asylum. Given the recent media coverage in Australia of the ‘boat people’, the insight into the life as someone on the fringe of Australian society is as fascinating as it gut-twisting. Do Australians really treat foreigners with that slight distain or in some cases, outright suspicion? I didn’t realise that there were so many hoops to jump for someone to become a legal citizen of this country while clearly being unable to return to their place of birth. For the majority of this story, Laura and Raji’s lives don’t intersect. When they do, it’s not the relationship you expect, which is one of the things that keep this story interesting. The beautiful, lyrical prose that de Kretser writes is to be savoured, not devoured – you should read this book with complete abandonment to time and place (just as if you were on holiday). The glimpses that are revealed into both Raji and Laura’s lives are like an intricate puzzle that is stunning when complete. It’s the type of book that you’ll remember for a long, long time due to its beauty. Definitely one for those who love travel (the descriptions are amazing) and those who like being swept away by a book. http://samstillreading.wordpress.com

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I've just finished reading 'Questions of Travel' and it has been a labour, at times I was not interested in picking the book back up... my commute on the train kept me reading but I was not riveted and it was slow paced reading... looking out the window at scenery before glancing back to the book struggling with where it was going with the two not well developed main characters, and flitting from one short chapter to another alternately for these two characters. There were moments of amazing wri I've just finished reading 'Questions of Travel' and it has been a labour, at times I was not interested in picking the book back up... my commute on the train kept me reading but I was not riveted and it was slow paced reading... looking out the window at scenery before glancing back to the book struggling with where it was going with the two not well developed main characters, and flitting from one short chapter to another alternately for these two characters. There were moments of amazing writing and images but not enough to recommend. Was Laura meant to be artsy bohemian, nomadic? At times I could relate & thought she may have depth, other times I thought she was totally shallow and false to herself and others. Ravi was better developed as a character, and I could never imagine what it would be like to live through what he did or how I'd behave afterwards. Well the end of the book was a surprise ... and well.. it sounded like Laura was going to take another male acquaintance to bed ... but did she??!!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I absolutely loved this book! I was transported on some amazing journeys and became involved the the ups and downs and generally messiness of the lives of the 2 main characters. It is a testament to the characterisations that I am missing both Laura and Ravi. I loved the bluntness and yet almost poetic prose. It made for a challenging read at times but I found if I just went with the flow I was carried along with the beautiful writing. I currently live in Sydney, have lived in London and have tr I absolutely loved this book! I was transported on some amazing journeys and became involved the the ups and downs and generally messiness of the lives of the 2 main characters. It is a testament to the characterisations that I am missing both Laura and Ravi. I loved the bluntness and yet almost poetic prose. It made for a challenging read at times but I found if I just went with the flow I was carried along with the beautiful writing. I currently live in Sydney, have lived in London and have travelled through out Europe, so maybe this enabled me to relate to the characters, even though I had nothing in common with either of their personalities. I can not understand the negative reviews - lack of a story, couldn't relate..... The whole premise of the novel was travel. That was the story - the huge journey that life is. The unexpected, the people we meet along the way, some that stay in our lives and some that don't and the ones that leave a mark on our lives no matter how hard we try to forget. This was an amazing and brave book and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I wasn't quite sure of the point of the book, it drifted all over the place and then finished off its main characters (we're left to assume) at the end of the book! I liked some of the writing, enjoyed some unusual turns of phrase and quite enjoyed the second half of the book...up to a point. Didn't much like the main characters, maybe we weren't supposed to but overall a little disppointing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Friederike Knabe

    Why do people travel? Because they are curious about other places and other people, or enjoy to be tourists looking for excitement far from home... Others leave their home because they are forced to leave for any number of reasons... There will be many answers to this question. Michelle de Kretser, an award winning Sri Lankan author living in Australia, delves below the surface of traveling and travelers in her novel, Questions of Travel, digging into a wide range of issues and scenarios: from t Why do people travel? Because they are curious about other places and other people, or enjoy to be tourists looking for excitement far from home... Others leave their home because they are forced to leave for any number of reasons... There will be many answers to this question. Michelle de Kretser, an award winning Sri Lankan author living in Australia, delves below the surface of traveling and travelers in her novel, Questions of Travel, digging into a wide range of issues and scenarios: from tourists and to asylum seekers. Against the backdrop of recent history - from the nineteen sixties to post 9/11 - in Australia, Sri Lanka and European cities like, in particular, London and Paris, Ms de Kretser imagines two central characters, leading two very different lives, experiencing two very different realities. She tells their stories in alternating chapters with decades as chapter headings. One, Laura, leaves her home in Australia, travels, thanks to an inheritance, to explore, primarily Europe. She enjoys experiencing her freedom and takes in the diversity that far away places can offer. When she runs out of funds, she takes on odd jobs that allow her to continue to enjoy life, at least for a time. The other, Ravi, while growing up in modest circumstances in Sri Lanka, also has dreams for himself and his family. "His thumbnail traced journeys across continents. He went for a walk across the world." However, political circumstances force him to flee his homeland; the personal loss and trauma he experiences throws him off balance and into a life that he cannot easily come to terms with. While Laura's and Ravi's lives only tangentially intersect, the reader can ponder each "case study" separately or draw conclusions from comparing or differentiating them. Michelle de Kretser draws on her familiarity with both societies to create an expansive portrait of her central characters, Laura and Ravi, their surroundings and their very distinct experiences and perspectives on what matters in their lives. A study in social, cultural and psychological contrasts. While Laura hopes to leave her earlier life behind, Ravi carries his life and especially his love deep in his heart with him. Emotional freedom on the one hand, emotional ties and dependencies on the other... De Kretser's language is often engaging, her commentary on places and people witty and to the point. "Paris was surely her reward for irregular verbs committed to memory, for the existentialist struggle of persisting to the last page of "La nausee". Yet, I found myself sometimes overwhelmed with details and sheer number of secondary characters surrounding, in particular, Laura. Overall, I preferred Ravi as a more authentic character and his struggles to survive and maintain his integrity affected me more than Laura's emotional shallowness and willingness to compromise.

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