Book Reviews Reviews

Book Review: The Places in Between


A book by Rory Stewart

I seem to have developed a fascination with the Middle East and have been selecting to read books related to travelling in the region. Many of the books, including the previous two book that I’ve read – Talking about Jane Austin in Baghdad and One Upon a Time in Beirut – had been stories of lives, survival and hope of human relationships. In Rory Stewarts The Places in Between however, I learned that reality is sometimes skewed by the media and our own prejudices and what we perceive as a country’s culture can be completely different.

The Places in Between is Rory’s account of walking across Afghanistan, between Herat and Kabul, where he navigated through the country’s bureaucracy, power hirarchy and bribery system as well as harsh country landscapes; where he met people who believed in a future in Afghanistan, and those who just didn’t give a damn. He journeyed through tribal lands where ethnic traditions were still strong but ancient ruins destroyed for the purpose of making a quick buck and he experienced ‘hospitality’ from the different areas that ranged from whole hearted welcomes to distant distrust.

To get through the questionings from the authorities, Rory used the excuse that he was following Babur’s (first Emperor of Mughal India) footsteps through the middle east, and quotes many passages from his diary throughout. It surprised me how similar the author’s experience were with Babur’s conquest 500 years earlier, with small differences in landscape and political situation.

Rory comments that Babur’s writing “focuses on the people that he meets and users portraits of individuals to suggest a whole society” and that he was a careful observer. This is exactly what Rory himself had done in this book. He described in honest details of his encounters and was careful not to over dramatise situations. He wrote what he saw and his writing painted a picture of Afghanistan of what it is today.

A worthwhile read with an open mind.

Get this book on Amazon now! -> The Places In Between

Share your thoughts below!