In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

A speculative buy, courtesy of a gift voucher for Readings. Perhaps when you are given free rein in such a way in a bookshop, one should exercise an intrepid spirit. Reading this you might be wondering what is intrepid about buying such an established writer, but don’t forget, I’m largely entrenched in a period before today’s fashion. I’d never heard of Galgut.

I put this book in my shopping basket because the first page said to. For a moment, when I got back to Geneva and – flopped out on the sofa – opened it, the next few pages made me wonder:

‘Was I completely mad? How could I have thought to buy a book just like that – in such a frivilous, impetuous way – without checking to see that at least thirty of my Goodreads friends had given it the thumbs up?’

The fact is that almost none of my Goodreads friends read anything I like. What an amazing place the world of books is that this could be so, given that, in my opinion I read many wonderful books that all my friends would do well to take a stab at. Doubtless they feel the same of me.

Anyway, this book, which I found unputdownable, against a backdrop of travel, explores loneliness and alienation. It redeems a species that not only made Lost in Translation, but saw it as a meaningful examination of loneliness as manifests itself in travel. The descriptions of Africa and India are haunting. The evocation of what traveling alone is, makes me better understand bits of my own life. I have no hesitation giving this five stars.

A tip for you after reading this. Never never EVER find yourself needing to be hospitalised in India. You do want to know why, but you have to read the book.

4 thoughts on “In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

  1. There are many places to avoid the hospitals. In a small town in Louisiana the efficient nurse brought my grandmother her meal: a cup of coffee and a cup of tea. The doctor had prescribed a liquid diet. Thanks for your usual very useful review.

  2. Indeed that is true. I hope your grandmother didn’t suffer too much from the interpretation of liquid diet because it is hard not to laugh at your story. But in first world countries our tales of hospitals contain many less rats and cockroaches.

  3. Private hospitals in India are not bad – in fact there are many excellent ones. But many of them are prohibitively expensive. The government hospitals, on the other hand, leave much to be desired.

    • I can easily imagine that. I think that medical treatment and hospitals fill us with fear at the best of times and when we are travelling that is only exacerbated. But I guess there are places to be ill that have good reputations and places that don’t.

      I had a friend who went on a posh trip to India some time ago and had a problem with a foot, basically it was infected so badly that she couldn’t put a shoe on it and the smallest touch was agony. Nonetheless, even staying in an expensive hotel, she was scared to ask for advice. Eventually it got so bad that she did arrange to see the house doctor and he found it a simple matter to fix, all of which she could have done to such better effect at the start of her trip.

      On the other hand, I almost died in Switzerland just after I moved here and I suppose that means I had a similar feeling since I left it until I had about an hour left of life before going to hospital. As everybody said to me, if you are going to have this happen in Europe, Switzerland is the place to be, but this didn’t really translate into anything different from how my friend in India acted!

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