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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The Kingdom by the Sea

A couple of years ago I swore off reading any book by Paul Theroux ever again. Ever. True, he could write like nobody’s business, but his arrogance drove me mad. He never literally spelled it out, but I always got the impression in his other books I’ve read that his adventures were the only way to travel and that everyone else was just a mere tourist. This upset me to no end, since I believe no one has the right to belittle another person’s ambitions.
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain
Before I cursed Paul Theroux to all eternity, I received a book of his for Christmas. It has sat on my shelves for several years waiting patiently to be read. Occasionally I would reach for it, only to pull back and glare at the temptation it presented. Theroux drove me mad, almost whipping me into a frenzy, and I wanted nothing to do with him. But then I began to make plans to see a friend in England and figured it was time to give him just one more chance. I assumed it the book couldn’t be all bad, since Bill Bryson spoke so highly of The Kingdom by the Sea in Notes From a Small Island.
Paul Theroux’s The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain is about just that, a journey around the coast of Great Britain. Theroux travels south from London, follows the coast over and up in a clockwise manner, crosses to Northern Ireland, and then comes back to Scotland and goes north before traveling back down toward London. His travel is done almost exclusively on foot and by train, but occasionally he cheats for reasons such as a transportation strike.
The route sounded incredibly interesting, particularly because of all of the things to see and do along the road, and generally it was; Paul Theroux is a great writer and it shows in The Kingdom by the Sea. He meets a lot of really interesting people, dispells more than a few misconceptions about people living in different parts of the country, sees some amazing things and writes it all up in an often-times humorous manner that eve I was able to enjoy.
Paul Theroux’s jourey is his own and how he decides to spend his time traveling is up to him. But, to the great parts that I enjoyed in The Kingdom by the Sea, there are also those parts that bothered me. It is generally the same thing that has always bugged me about Paul Theroux, too, the thought of “I’m a traveler, not a tourist.” In his journey around the islands he passes on any opportunity to visit a castle, historic site, or any other sort of tourist spot. And this bugs me to no end for reasons I can’t completely explain, other than that I feel it belittles, based on the way he writes it, any traveler who decides to stop at a historic or touristy location.
Overall I enjoyed Paul Theroux’s The Kingdom by the Sea. There were some spots where I felt it was a bit slow – everything running together after a while with another stop in another town doing the same things – but it was a good read that I enjoyed and would recommend to others. Does this mean that I’m back on the Paul Theroux bandwagon? No way. Now that I’ve cleared my shelves of any of his books, I’m moving on. I thank Paul Theroux for sharing his amazing skill, but his books on the whole just aren’t for me.

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