Saturday 21 May 2011

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

...and co-authored by Davis Oliver Relin.

Although my copy of this book has the same cover art, it also has a little medallion stating that the book is a Kiriyama prize winner.  The Kiriyama Prize "was established in 1996 to recognize outstanding books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia that encourage greater mutual understanding of and among the peoples and nations of this vast and culturally diverse region".  It promised a lot but delivered little.

I'm sorry to say I found this one of the most tedious books I've read in a long time.  I struggled to finish it.  The author, no doubt doing good works in Pakistan, is nevertheless completely self-satisfied and self-congratulatory:
As Mortenson turned his brave, wind beaten face towards the dying embers of the fire, he reflected inwardly....
The writing is painfully clunky, and manages to make this reader at least concentrate more on the writing than on the story.  The story itself could have been told in much less space if it had left out all the minutiae that are completely irrelevant.  Who cares about Greg's earlier relationships?

To be perfectly honest, I found even the photos included have nothing to add. They are little more than a series of faces beaming at the camera. One I will never forget - a Christmas card featuring Mortenson with his wife and baby, and two weapons, rifles or something, I don't know. On a Christmas card?!  It is my lasting memory of the book.

However, if you can get over the irritations that bothered me, you will be able to read about the remote parts of a country that most of us will never visit.

Updated to add that apparently the truth was "stretched" in a number of places and there are some discrepancies in the financial management of his organisation.  Some call the issues minor problems and transgressions, others call it lies and fraud.

Buy Three Cups of Tea at or at