From Library Journal
Chaplin, a journalist, and his female companion sailed the coast of Central America, following the route taken by a relative, Frederick Catherwood, an obscure artist who accompanied 19th-century explorer John Lloyd Stephens during his discovery of the Mayan ruins. Like most travel reminiscences, this contains a personal story: Chaplin's search for family roots and his desire to fulfill a sailing dream for his father. Chaplin succeeds in providing a sense of the history, politics, and lifestyles of the countries comprising his journey, including Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. He peppers his account with anecdotes, literary quotes and passages, and encounters with various characters. Although his narrative is sometimes disjointed, it is for the most part absorbing reading. For travel and sailing collections.- Elizabeth DeMarco, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A personal travelogue of Central America, fuzzily in the manner of Graham Greene. Chaplin--a sometime journalist--and a female companion sail down from Mexico along the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, with brief sojourns in Costa Rica and Panama. There seems to be little reason for the voyage except that no American vessel has ventured into Nicaraguan waters since the Sandinistas took power, and that Chaplin wants to retrace the voyage taken by a dead relative, Frederick Catherwood, who illustrated the Mayan finds of archaeologist John Lloyd Stephens. There are rumors of pirates and worries about troubles with Sandinistas--who, as the tale unfolds, are about to relinquish power to the Chamorro government. No disasters strike, however; the Sandinistas offer red tape, but no real trouble. The ordinary people Chaplin runs into are remarkable for how kind they are, particularly since Chaplin doesn't seem very kind himself, spoiled rich, perhaps, and striking the reader as a lost soul--e.g., in his clever description of himself as a Central American country: ``my seedy yet respectable...British...colonial past; my shadowy, inscrutable, rich, powerful...American...connections. I have crippling problems in dealing with outside authority, and yet I can never seem to get my own act together.'' As a spiritual journey, this is a bogus trip, borrowing from the trappings of earlier narratives but with none of their fire or any real sense of risk. But as description-- of pristine, charming Belize; of a ramshackle Nicaragua brought down by the superpower foreign policies; of the wild beauty of Guatemala and the civilization of Costa Rica--this is often very fine. Chaplin draws on historical sources with insight, and the search for the meaning of his heritage becomes more affecting as we learn about his confused relationship with his wealthy father, for whom the book was in part written. Nonetheless, Chaplin strains for charm but seems barely able to behave himself, simultaneously. A so-so account. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.