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Kingdom By the Sea Hardcover – October 3, 1983

3.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October 3, 1983
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

PAUL THEROUX is the author of many highly acclaimed books. His novels include The Lower River and The Mosquito Coast, and his renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari. He lives in Hawaii and Cape Cod.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Putnam~trade (October 3, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241110866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241110867
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,628,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Edelman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 25, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
Paul Theroux's travel book soften being out strong opinions in readers- particulrly those who have visited a place he has written about. Many of the most critical seem to focus on a few details and miss the overall tenor of the piece.
As Theroux makes quite clear in this book, he loves the English seacoast, and he met many warm people along the way. At the same time, he unflinchingly relates every detail of his experience, every rude comment, every unpleasant encounter. As he notes, most travel writing is boring; we went to Egypt, we saw the pyramids, et cetera. What makes for interesting reading is the minutia, the detail that makes my trip different from your trip. My England is nothing like Theroux's, but then, I wasn't there for 17 years, I didn't tour the coast, and I am not Paul Theroux.
I recently re-read "Kingdom", while thinking about a bicycle tracing some of the ground covered by Theroux, and what struck me was how much there was that Theroux truely liked about his trip, the things he saw, and the people he met. The more unpleasant encounters only served to make the pleasant ones more so.
"Kingdom By The Sea" is for me, at least, a thouroughly enjoyable tour, a look into the British and into Theroux, and as always, a terrific piece of writing by one of the modern masters.
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This book took me a long time to read. I'm use to Mr. Theroux's style after reading The Old Patagonian Express and Riding the Iron Rooster and for full disclosure I'm English; although I haven't lived there for 20 years. It was PT's description of southern England that I struggled with, it just wasn't very interesting or insightful. He just seem to plod from one place to another with no insight or interesting encounters. Places I know from my childhood he seem to pass by, more concerned with how he was going to get to the next town or escape the next bad B&B he was staying at. The book only began to get interesting when he entered Wales and became a good read when in Ireland. Here the writing took you on a journey mingling the physical scenery with the cultural landscape of the past and present and became more than a 'how do I get to lower nowhere now the branch railway has closed down.' The book improves as PT travels through Scotland and returns through NE England. As some reviewers have pointed out the book was written in an era when many coastal towns were going into a steep decline as people began to go on 'holiday' to Spain and other cheap resorts, but this trend has mostly continued and many have never recovered and exist in a similar state today; Scarbrough comes to mind. Like most of PT books I struggle with his personality during the book, but appreciate the journey once its over; however compared to his other books I've read this would be down my list of recommended reads.
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In The Kingdom by the Sea, Theroux sets out to explore, mostly by foot, the coastline of perhaps the most well-traveled country on earth, Great Britain--a place where "nothing was unknown...just variously interpreted" (77). An American who spent eleven years living in London and speaks with a muted British accent himself, Theroux is in a unique position to write a UK travel memoir; he's simultaneously an insider and an outsider, both familiar with the culture and self-consciously Other. And it's from this interesting vantage point that he embarks on his quest to discover "what [this] kingdom is really like" (6).

Theroux sets the stage for readers by alluding throughout The Kingdom by the Sea, written in 1982, to the current events of the day, just as he does in his other travel memoirs. The Falklands War, the birth of Prince William, railroad strikes, the rise and fall of the Yorkshire killer (a man whom Theroux is humorously mistaken to be on more than one occasion), "the troubles" in Northern Ireland--these and other headlines comprise the colorful backdrop to his narrative, which is usually more about people than places. Fans of Theroux will find other traits characteristic of his writing here, too: The inside joke that strategically perforates the entire book, always appearing at the right time. In The Kingdom by the Sea he introduces the Inside Joke with this line: "It was one of my small talents to be able to tell a person's name by looking at him" (9) and indeed overwhelmingly proves his knack for conjuring up very funny, very British names and pinning them to the right people--"The Touchmores," "Vivian Greenup," "R.L. Justice," "Mrs. Mumby," "Judith Memery," "Roger Cockpole...
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This was my first Paul Theroux book. I bought it thinking that it would help me plan a trip around Great Britain. I realize now that Theroux's focus is not on place but rather on society and psychology. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I am more drawn to such a focus than to usual travel books. So, if this book had been more objective, I would probably ave gone on to read all of his other books. The good thing about this book is that it is well written. The thing that turned me off was his unrelenting negativity about the English people. It's a hatchet job. It's not,as he would probably describe it, an unapologetic, objective view of the English. If a writer sees ignorance, prejudice, and coldness in people, then he should not hesitate to write about it; but what nation is so uniformly bad that nothing good can be said about it. I was going to read his latest book about the Deep South, but now I am wondering whether it's worth my time.
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