4 Aug 2021



Ryszard Kapuściński goes to stub out his cigarette, his head pounding. He and his travelling companions are on the way to Uganda to report on its forthcoming independence, but now, lost and exhausted, they have had to shelter from the sun in a deserted hut, miles from anywhere. As Kapuściński reaches down, he nearly touches the head of a cobra beneath his bunk. It has been there all along. And it is ready to strike ... {Back cover Blurb}

More than anything, one is struck by the light.  {First Sentence, The Beginning: Collison, Ghana, 1958

The horizon receded and smudged, as if subject to the oceanic law of ebb and flow. The dusty grey parasols of the acacias swayed rhythmically and moved about - as if some confused madman were tossing them here and there, at a loss for anything better to do. {Memorable Moment, Page 42} 

MY THOUGHTS ... Obviously not just a well travelled, talented traveller and journalist but a creative story- teller to boot. What better a testimony to the author's experiences in 20th-century Africa than this 100 pages of engaging vignettes taken from the author's The Shadow of the Sun.

His writing articulate, free of nostalgic embellishment and, at times, surprisingly humorous, as with all of the twenty books in the Great Journeys series The Cobra's Heart reads as a small collection of separate small essays as opposed to a cohesive narrative; the beauty being that given this glimpse the reader is offered an insight into the works of an author they may well have otherwise passed by as being not for them.

Read about Ryszard Kapuściński 


A war rages across Europe, a group of men are fighting their own battle for survival. Their ship, Endurance, has been crushed by enormous icebergs and now they are marooned on a desolate, rocky island 800 miles from civilization. They are freezing. Their supplies are running out. Somehow they must escape and get home. Crossing treacherous storm-ravaged seas in a tiny, battered boat, their struggle against the elements begins ... {Back Cover Blurb}

The increasing sea made it necessary for us to drag the boats further up the beach. {First Sentence, The Boat Journey}

The air temperature that night probably was not lower than 38 or 40 Fahr, and we were rendered uncomfortable in our cramped sleeping quarters by the unaccustomed warmth. Our feelings towards our neighbours underwent a change. When the temperature was below 20 Fahr., we could not get too close to one another - every man wanted to cuddle against his neighbour, but let the temperature rise a few degrees and the warmth of another man's body ceased to be a blessing. {Memorable Moment, Page 43}

MY THOUGHTS ... Of the nine out of twenty books I've read so far in this, the Great Journeys series, I've rated six of them ** {'It was OK'} and two of them *** {'Liked it'}.

Whilst I don't do star ratings here on Pen and Paper per se, compelled to do so on other sites, I'm doing so here today as a matter of comparison ...

Rated **** {'Really liked it'}, Escape From Antarctica is my favourite book in the Great Journeys series ... so far.

An extraordinary tale told with a typical British stoicism, reads as a what I'd describe as a fairly formal report  but oh my goodness ...

Told in 100 pages, keenly observed and with a dry humour, what turned out to be a compelling memoir of an 800 mile rescue mission, the likes of which put me in mind of one of those Boy's Own adventure stories.

 Read about Ernest Shackleton


Sherry Ellis said...

Those both sound like great books! I have definitely heard of the Shackleton one. I'm sure it's an interesting account of the adventure.

Kelly said...

I'm not sure these book really strike my fancy, but your comments about the second one would make me consider it. I hope the remaining books are on par with it. (I'm guessing you have the entire series?)

nightwingsraven said...

I suspect that I would appreciate
these books and I will keep them
in mind. And thank you for your
excellent review.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Back before Covid, we had the entire series of these 'pocket sized' books donated into the charity shop. I picked them up and spent days "umming and ahing" about buying them for myself, before deciding that I didn't really need them and putting them out for sale!

Now I wish that I had gone with my gut instinct, as you make them sound so good and just the right length to 'whet the appetite' to know more about the individual journeys, and yet enough to satisfy the 'armchair traveller' in me!

Thanks for sharing :)

Melliane said...

I'm not sure it's for me but you still definitely made me curious with your reviews

Sophia Rose said...

Both of those books have great appeal for an armchair traveler like myself. I've read a different bio of Shackleton and it was gripping, too.

sherry fundin said...

they both sound very interesting
sherry @ fundinmental

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Both books sounds wonderful. How delightful this last book was your favorite in the field.